TNH's Particles
* Unexamined privilege in a nutshell.
* Beargrass: math made manifest.
* La Llorona/Cempazuchitl.
* The Questioning of John Rykener, 1395.
* Royal Navy Field Gun Competition, 1988.
* Regarding Trolls.
* Transformative use in a dress length.
* Fifty Shades of Marco Rubio.
* Clipper ship to diesel locomotive to jet airplane to rocket.
* Quiz: Is it legal?
PNH's Sidelights
* The Story of Thanksgiving Is a Science-Fiction Story.
* Charles Pierce: "What It Means To Be a Pilgrim People"
* They walk among us: the group most prone to extremist violence.
* petition: Rename Stephen Harper to "Calgary International Airport"
* The Today Show + Peanuts = unimaginable horror
* Most Cyclists Are Working-Class Immigrants, Not Hipsters
* The astonishing cowardice of SXSW
* Galactic History, or Galactic Folktale?
* When politicians use the term "medieval", it's almost certain that they're about to say something breathtakingly wrong.
* Lost rivers of London.
Abi's Parhelia
* It All Goes Around
* Airbnb's ads make them fools in national news
* Auto Mechanics recreate great art
* Hunting Bigfoot, finding something quite different
* LEGO: Father Leopold Celebrates Mass
* so what do you do, if you're a saint with some free time on your hands?
* The Long Ride, Day Four
* The Long Ride, Day Three
* The Long Ride, Day Two
* The Long Ride, Day One
Jim's Diffraction
* Angelus ad virginem 14th century Irish carol
* Christmas on the Theremin
* Kinect eye patch for Xbox One will protect what's left of your privacy
* Real-Time Wind Map
* IS-907: Active Shooter: What You Can Do
* Smithsonian museum artifacts can now be 3D printed at home
* PunditFact
* A Display You Can Reach Through And Touch
* The Craigslist killers: the full story
* Proposed Museum of Science Fiction
Avram's Phosphenes
You Know Nothing, Charlie Brown
“It’s actually the Puppies who are the Marxists.”
Wes Anderson’s The Shining
Thor gets a cellphone
Definitely-Not-Filthy Sailing Terminology
Paul Ford on The Dress
The End of Libertarians (via)
I won’t fear Muslims
Higgledy piggledy / Benedict Cumberbatch…
Six hit country songs separated at birth
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“We are prophets of a future not our own.” (Oscar Romero)

“Peace means something different from ‘not fighting’. Those aren’t peace advocates, they’re ‘stop fighting’ advocates. Peace is an active and complex thing and sometimes fighting is part of what it takes to get it.” (Jo Walton)

“You really think that safety can be plucked from the arms of an evil deed?” (Darla, “Inside Out”)

“Forgiveness requires giving up on the possibility of a better past.” (unknown)

“The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature.” (Arthur D. Hlavaty)

“Terror consists mostly of useless cruelties perpetrated by frightened people in order to reassure themselves.” (Friedrich Engels)

“You don't owe the internet your time. The internet does not know this, and will never learn.” (Quinn Norton)

“Great writing is the world's cheapest special effect.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Everyone gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” (Gertrude Stein)

“Very few people are stupid. It’s just that the world really is that difficult and you can’t continually be careful.” (Quinn Norton)

“Armageddon is not around the corner. This is only what the people of violence want us to believe. The complexity and diversity of the world is the hope for the future.” (Michael Palin)

“Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“The fact that ‘there are only a handful of bad cops’ cuts no ice with me. If ‘only a handful of McDonald’s are spitting in your food,’ you’re not going to McDonald’s.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, like always.” (Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars)

“The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.” (G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday)

“When liberty is mentioned, we must observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests.” (Hegel)

“History is the trade secret of science fiction.” (Ken MacLeod)

“But isn’t all of human history simultaneously a disaster novel and a celebrity gossip column?” (Anonymous LJ commenter)

“I see now that keen interest can illuminate anything, and that anything, moreover, has something worth illuminating in it, and that without that interest gates carved by Benvenuto Cellini from two diamonds would merely look chilly.” (Lord Dunsany)

“I grieve for the spirit of Work, killed by her evil child, Workflow.” (Paul Ford)

“The opposite of ‘serious’ isn't ‘funny.’ The opposite of both ‘serious’ and ‘funny’ is ‘squalid.’” (R. A. Lafferty)

“Ki is, of course, mystical bullshit. That’s why it works so well, both as a teaching idiom and a tool of practice in martial arts. It’s as nonexistent as charm, leadership, or acting. Humans are all about bullshit.” (Andrew Plotkin)

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” (Charles Kingsley)

“Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even when the plan is horrifying.” (The Joker)

“Hope has two daughters, anger and courage. They are both lovely.” (attributed to St. Augustine)

“Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“This movie has way too much plot getting in the way of the story.” (Joe Bob Briggs)

“If there is no willingness to use force to defend civil society, it’s civil society that goes away, not force.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Always side with the truth. It’s much bigger than you are.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Listen, here’s the thing about politics: It’s not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.” (Tony Kushner)

“I don’t want politicians who are ‘above politics,’ any more then I want a plumber who’s ‘above toilets.’” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.” (Otto von Bismarck)

“Every organization appears to be headed by secret agents of its opponents.” (Robert Conquest)

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” (Anne Lamott)

“Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.” (Oscar Wilde)

“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical science-fiction cowboy detective novel.” (Alan Moore)

“See everything, overlook a great deal, improve a little.” (John XXIII)

“You will never love art well, until you love what she mirrors better.” (John Ruskin)

“They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came.” (Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose)

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” (Jay Gould)

“I’m a leftist. I don't argue with anyone unless they agree with me.” (Steven Brust)

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” (Mark Twain)

“Details are all that matters; God dwells there, and you never get to see Him if you don’t struggle to get them right.” (Stephen Jay Gould)

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” (Gustav Mahler)

“But this kind of deference, this attentive listening to every remark of his, required the words he uttered to be worthy of the attention they excited—a wearing state of affairs for a man accustomed to ordinary human conversation, with its perpetual interruption, contradiction, and plain disregard. Here everything he said was right; and presently his spirits began to sink under the burden.” (Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander)

“Hatred is a banquet until you recognize you are the main course.” (Herbert Benson)

“For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.” (Neal Stephenson)

“‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.” (James Morrow)

“And after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)

“The man who tries to make the flag an object of a single party is a greater traitor to that flag than any man who fires at it.” (Lloyd George)

“The United States behaves like a salesman with a fantastic product who tries to force people to buy it at gunpoint.” (Emma of Late Night Thoughts)

“I’m a fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberal, and I think fuzzy-headed warm-hearted liberalism is an ideological stance that needs defending—if necessary, with a hob-nailed boot-kick to the bollocks of budding totalitarianism.” (Charles Stross)

“The real test of any claim about freedom, I’ve decided, is how far you’re willing to go in letting people be wrong about it.” (Bruce Baugh)

“As with bad breath, ideology is always what the other person has.” (Terry Eagleton)

“Only he who in the face of all this can say ‘In spite of all!’ has the calling for politics.” (Max Weber)

“No, it’s not fair. You’re in the wrong universe for fair.” (John Scalzi)

“I don’t understand death, but I got hot dish down pretty good.” (Marissa Lingen)

“Skepticism is the worst form of gullibility.” (John “adamsj” Adams)

“We have a backstage view of ourselves and a third-row view of everybody else.” (Garrison Keillor)

“The Reign of Sin is more universal, the influence of unconscious error is less, than historians tell us.” (Lord Acton)

“All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them.” (H. L. Mencken)

“Tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same fucking day, man.” (Janis Joplin)

“Words are always getting conventionalized to some secondary meaning. It is one of the works of poetry to take the truants in custody and bring them back to their right senses.” (W. B. Yeats)

“It is a little embarrassing that, after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other.” (Aldous Huxley)

“Never believe in a meritocracy in which no one is funny-looking.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

“Probably no man has ever troubled to imagine how strange his life would appear to himself if it were unrelentingly assessed in terms of his maleness; if everything he wore, said, or did had to be justified by reference to female approval [...] If he gave an interview to a reporter, or performed any unusual exploit, he would find it recorded in such terms as these: ‘Professor Bract, although a distinguished botanist, is not in any way an unmanly man. He has, in fact, a wife and seven children. Tall and burly, the hands with which he handles his delicate specimens are as gnarled and powerful as those of a Canadian lumberjack, and when I swilled beer with him in his laboratory, he bawled his conclusions at me in a strong, gruff voice that implemented the promise of his swaggering moustache.’” (Dorothy L. Sayers)

“Grown ups are what’s left when skool is finished.” (Nigel Molesworth)

“If you don't like the ‘blame game,’ it’s usually because you’re to blame.” (Jon Stewart)

“Slang is for a war of signals.” (Unknown semiotician/palindromist)

“Science fiction is an argument with the world. When it becomes (solely) an argument within science fiction, it breathes recycled air.” (Ken MacLeod)

“All worthy work is open to interpretation the author didn’t intend. Art isn’t your pet—it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back.” (Joss Whedon)

“I really don’t know what you do about the ‘taxes is theft’ crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires.” (John Scalzi)

“So whenever a libertarian says that capitalism is at odds with the state, laugh at him. It’s like saying that the NFL is ‘at war’ with football fields. To be a libertarian is to say that God or the universe marked up that field, squirted out the pigskins from the bowels of the earth, and handed down the playbooks from Mt. Sinai.” (Connor Kilpatrick)

“True religion invites us to become better people. False religion tells us that this has already occurred.” (Abdal-Hakim Murad)

“There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit’. This is not a myth.” (Joss Whedon)

“There's always romance at the top of a system.” (Will Shetterly)

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.” (John “Second US President” Adams)

“There is a document that records God’s endless, dispiriting struggle with organized religion, known as the Bible.” (Terry Eagleton)

“There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part; and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop, And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.” (Mario Savio)

“Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others.” (Ta-Nehisi Coates)

“To live is to war against the trolls.” (Henrik Ibsen)

“There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we are ourselves incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real.” (G. K. Chesterton)

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

“It’s just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.” (Bill Hicks)

“I don’t think we have a language, will ever have a language, that can describe transcendence in any useful way and I am aware that that transcendence may be nothing more than the illusory aspiration of a decaying piece of meat on a random rock. The thing is to be humble enough to be content with that while acting to other people as generously as if better things were true, and making art as if it might survive and do good in the world. Because what else are we going to do with the few short years of our life?” (Roz Kaveney)

“I hate living in a satirical dystopia.” (Arthur Hlavaty)

“No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett)

“Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying.” (Iain Banks)

“If it doesn’t connect with people around you who aren’t like you, it isn’t politics.” (Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

November 14, 2015
Not Paris
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:54 AM * 107 comments

The wise, kind, and much-missed Mike Ford wrote this in the wake of Katrina; I’d urge you to read it if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re not quite to the “shut down the computer” stage, but want to talk somewhere about good and joyful things, here’s a thread for it. What have you been cooking, making, reading, doing, planning? What was the deepest joy you felt last week, and why?

Remember: joy replenishes our emotional resources. Building one’s own and fostering it in others is also part of the work of making the world a better place.

Below the cut, sunset and windmills

Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:13 AM * 165 comments

I don’t have anything new and useful to say about this, or about the attacks in Beirut and Baghdad that preceded it.

I note that in Paris they struck at cosmopolitan venues: a concert by an American band, a football game with Germany, places with tourists and people who move easily from culture to culture. They struck not just to kill, but to hurt and terrify, and they did all of those things.

There was also generosity, because people open their doors to strangers; taxi drivers get people home safe and worry about the money another day. More people do this, and do it more consistently, than those who kill and harm.

And now others with no skin in the game are all over the place being awful, furthering the murderers’ cause of dividing us all, blaming this easy target or that. There will be hate crimes, and hate. Because—particularly outside of the moment and venue of the crisis itself—there are many who are afraid and vulnerable, and there are some terrible seed crystals floating around in our culture, looking to grow.

This last point makes me tense on a more immediate level as well. My village (which, even if you know its name, please do not identify in the comments) is hosting about 100 refugees next week. The meeting to discuss whether to do so was divided between the civil majority arguing for their stay and the rather alarming minority arguing against it*. The meeting to coordinate volunteers was full and a little overwhelmed†, but that minority is still among us. What will happen next week? Can we keep these vulnerable, hurt people from being further traumatized?

And on a broader basis, can we, how can we, keep all our vulnerable, hurt selves from being further traumatized? Both the ones who turn to grief and the ones who turn to hate? I don’t know of any answer but solidarity. So if you’re the prayin’ type, pray with me; if you’re the crying sort, I have tissues. If you’re a talker, come here and talk.

I’m afraid that if you’re the hating type, the shouting kind, the angry sort, I’m going to ask you to leave. And I’d urge you to think where the road you’re walking down leads, and whether you want to build your life in the place where it ends. I hope you have the courage and strength to find a better path.

* plus a third set of people who wanted to have a go at the city council.
† Martin went, but I didn’t, because other overwhelm. So I didn’t get any of the prized “actually help out in the shelter” slots. I’ll do laundry and clothing repairs offsite.

November 06, 2015
Visually clueless morning
Posted by Teresa at 12:24 PM * 25 comments

Two news stories this morning were accompanied by photos that made me stop dead and say “No, that’s not it …”

The first story, a series of spectacular weather photos, was headlined ‘Cloud tsunami’ hits Sydney. Apparently either Sydney or the Guardian doesn’t know a storm cell/shelf cloud when it sees one.

I don’t remember the cloud being correctly identified in the opening paragraph when I first saw the story, but I could be wrong. What I’m sure of, then and now, is that the caption writer didn’t recognize that ropy tubular thing hanging down out of the cloud in photo #7.

The other story, John Lewis Christmas advert: who is Moon Hitler?, subtitled Why has the old man been sent into space? Is he a war criminal?, is a rant by Stuart Heritage about the complete incomprehensibility of the 2015 Christmas ad from retailers John Lewis.

The version of the story I’m seeing begins with a photograph of an old man sitting by himself on the surface of the moon, looking up at the sky. Um, sure, Hitler. First thing I thought of when I saw it.

If you click through to the video there’s a story about a little girl with a telescope seeing the man on the moon, and sending him his own telescope so that he can look back at her. It’s cute, but so rivet-free that Bradbury himself couldn’t have handwaved it. The guy who wrote about a man who sold the moon would probably have had them using really big mirrors as semaphores: better science, but hard to fit into a Christmas ad.

Mr. Heritage has seen Total Recall, so he’s concerned about the “hard vacuum in your shirtsleeves” issue. Clearly, he needs to watch A Grand Day Out. The only cure for the evils of a superficial education is more education.

November 02, 2015
Open thread 209
Posted by Patrick at 11:09 AM * 335 comments

From The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester by George Ormerod. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, 1819:

“[Sir Hugh de Dutton, b. about 1175] also had the magistracy, or rule and authority, over all the letchers and whores of all Cheshire, granted unto him and his heirs, by John constable of Cheshire and baron of Halton, as freely as the said John held the same of the earl of Chester, saving the right of the said John to him and his heirs; which are the very words of the deed, only rendered by me in English. Lib. C. fol. 154, h. So that he holds it, as it were, under the baron of Halton, who reserves his own right by a special reservation.

“This privilege over such loose persons was granted first under Roger Lacy, constable of Cheshire, under Richard the First, by Randle, surnamed Blundevill, earl of Chester, in memory of his good service done to the earl in raising the siege of the Welsh-men, who had beset the earl in his castle of Rothelent in Flintshire; for the constable having got a promiscuous rabble of such like persons together, and marching towards the said castle, the Welsh, supposing a great army to be coming, raised their siege and fled. So saith the ancient roll of the barons of Halton. Lib. C. fol. 85, b. Monasticon Anglicanum, 2 pars, pag. 187. This roll saith, that rabble consisted of players, fidlers, and shoe-makers. The deed here toucheth letchers and whores. The privilege and custom used at this day by the heirs of Dutton, is over the minstrelsie and common fidlers, none being suffered to play in this county without the licence of the lord of Dutton, who keeps a court at Chester yearly, on Midsomer-day, for the same, where all the licenced minstrels of Cheshire do appear, and renew their licences; so that the custom seems to have been altered to the fidlers, as necessary attendants on revellers in bawdy-houses and taverns.

“And it is to be observed, that those minstrels which are licensed by the heirs of Dutton of Dutton, within the county-palatine of Chester, or the county of the city of Chester, according to their ancient custom, are exempted out of the statute of rogues, 39 Eliz. cap. 4.”

October 25, 2015
It All Goes Around (but what?)
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:26 PM * 68 comments

One of the pleasures of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series is running across the small songs that Breq, the main character, collects. One particularly graceful lullaby that threads its way through the story is It All Goes Around:

My mother said it all goes around
The ship goes around the station,
It all goes around.

My mother said it all goes around
The station goes around the moon,
It all goes around.

My mother said it all goes around
The moon goes around the planet,
It all goes around.

My mother said it all goes around
The planet goes around the sun
It all goes around.

It’s clear in the story that the song is a ferocious earworm. Which is why the tune for it that Foz Meadows composed is so perfect. It fits the lyrics beautifully, and sticks in your head. It certainly stuck in the head of Tumblr user @comedrinkwithme, who demonstrated that it’s a really good round.

Pastiches? Why, yes there are.

October 09, 2015
Ancillary SPOILERS
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:35 AM * 121 comments

The soft clink of container against flask and the quiet slosh of liquid woke me quickly and completely. No ancillary, and no crewmember trying to perform an ancillary’s role, would make so much noise brewing and pouring tea.

Ship, why is there a stranger in my cabin? I asked silently, keeping my eyes closed and my breathing even. No doubt the stranger had noted my involuntary physiological changes on waking, but perhaps she would think it was simply a sleep phase transition. If she wasn’t an ancillary, if she had never stood like a piece of furniture, all but invisible, while citizens and ancillaries breathed and slept and woke around her, she might not know the thousand subtle differences between consciousness and unconsciousness.

The stranger convinced me that no harm was intended, replied Ship. I believe the tea is supposed to be the signal for you to wake up.

I opened my eyes. The stranger was at the foot of my bed, watching me with her head tilted to one side. She wore a simple outfit of black and gold, with a single large ornament on the left side of her chest and three small matching pins on her collar. In her ungloved hands she held a strange glass container of tea. The container was too tall to be considered a bowl. If it had not had a handle and been clearly intended for drinking from, I would have called it a vase. The fragrance of the tea inside was unfamiliar too, like Heart of the Valley with citrus peel added.

“Greetings, Fleet Captain,” she said as I sat up. “My previous captain was also fond of tea in the morning, and I’ve taken the liberty of making you some the way that he liked it.”

I took the vaselike vessel from her and sipped it. It was delicious. “And what did your previous captain call it?”

“Tea. Earl Grey.” She closed her lips, as though there was another word in that sequence, one she did not intend to say.

This is a spoiler thread for Ancillary Mercy.