On Tuesday the weather was slightly lees grey and damp. I finally got round to doing a bit of work in the garden. I gave about ten feet of hedge a bit of a trim, and that left the garden waste ben almost completely full. In the evening there was another radio club meeting, but this involved a couple of short talks. They seemed to generate a fair bit of interest. I got home a bit later than usual, and discovered that my home *DSL was not performing. A bit of research using the mobile's data eventually revealed a notice about "Planned Maintenance" affecting about 150 exchanges including the one I'm on. As the maintenance was scheduled to run from 10pm to 6am I decided I'd have an early night. I think the network actually came back sometime around 2am...
This morning I decided I needed to get out of the house, so I packed some radio and geocache kit into the car and headed off. First stop was a geocache I hid back in 2002 which was in need of a fresh logbook. I took the opportunity to clean it out a little, removing the rubbish and adding a few new swaps. The weather was a bit grey and the path a little muddy, but the walk wasn't a bad one.
After that I headed back to a view point car park which is a good starting point for the nearby SOTA summit. I'd taken a packed lunch, so I ate that while looking at the (rather grey) view, then grabbed my radio kit and walked to the summit. Now, this particular summit is one I'd normally not have considered bothering to re-visit, but it is the one nearest my home. There's a large water tank and a couple of communication towers at the summit. Today there were four work vans at the summit, and work going on. If I'd taken a hand-held and a suitable antenna I could have considered activating the summit on VHF or UHF, but there was nowhere accessible I could set up my HF antenna sensibly, so I decided to abandon the SOTA idea and come home. Frustrating...
Placido was adopted by Domingo wasn't, so now Domingo has to work twice as hard to make a mess of his cage. Vin Diesel was adopted, with exclamation marks after his name on the adoption board. Apparently he finally managed to be nice for a full fifteen minutes. Tanglewood (in the picture) is new and very friendly. He's officially a kitten but nearly full grown.
The excitement came afterward. When we'd finished our work, Virginia and I went to Tom's a mile away to get some stuff for the shelter. I brought it back while she continued home. When I got to the shelter, there was an animal control officer at the bathroom door.
Tiny, a very large gray cat, has been staying in the bathroom for weeks, and we've kept the door closed so she can stay away from the other cats. According to the description, she's declawed, morbidly obese, and very scared. Somehow she locked herself in the bathroom. It has a twist button lock, which isn't easy for a cat to work. You can't open the door from the inside without unlocking it, which makes it unlikely anyone locked it by accident. The officer was trying to pick the lock. I didn't stay for very long, so I don't know what they ended up doing.
Their newest finding? That in the last year, public opinion in America has swung quite dramatically in favor of immigration, diversity, and refugees, with most population segments adding at least 10% to their approval. And practicing Christians who believe the US should welcome refugees more than doubled between 2016 and 2017, which is why there are currently more religious leaders across the board speaking to refugee and immigration issues. (Evangelicals are the lone holdouts, surprise, surprise.) For example, the Christian community is pretty much united in opposition to ending or limiting the DREAM program. Even the Evangelicals agree there.
Unfortunately, the shift doesn't seem to be from racists, nationalists, and other right-wingers changing their minds. Where the shift seems to be coming from is the people who were undecided a year ago moving towards open-mindedness, tolerance, and compassion. So it's not that the whole country is moving towards tolerance, it's that the people in the middle are moving leftward on this issue. Which is good, don't get me wrong! It just means we've got our work cut out for us to reach out to the Evangelicals and the FOX newsers and all and help them see things in a different light.
(Obviously I'm not talking to people who aren't safe or wouldn't be safe if they tried to reach out, whether psychologically or physically.
For those following along at home: The hearphone movie test was inconclusive. I could, indeed, hear the dialog in Fantastic Beasts clearly while wearing the hearphones, but! So could I without. I am forced to conclude that the speakers on the new television set are superior to those in the local movie theater.
I have not yet done the Noisy Bar test drive. I have a window of opportunity tomorrow, when I need to be in Augusta insanely early so the car can get its 10,000 mile inspection, fine-tuning, whatever. Steve has bravely volunteered to go with me, and the plan (The Plan) is that, after the car is taken care of, we shall adjourn to IHOP, which is really pretty noisy, and I will do a test there.
One of the things that’s really freaky about the hearphones, besides hearing yourself talk through your ears, is that there’s a option for “silence” — which turns off your ears. Or at least feels like it’s turned off your ears. No input gets through.
In other news, the page proofs for Neogenesis, the twenty-first book in the Liaden Universe®; the eleventh Liaden book we’ve written for Baen — landed in my in-box yesterday. Today, after breakfast, Sprite and I sat down with our red pen and our sticky tabs and went over the front matter and the first 48 pages, which takes us through the first section/chapter.
I will now go on to other things, including working on Fifth of Five, the sequel to Neogenesis and the last book in both the five-book arc beginning with Dragon in Exile, and the last book in the arc begun 29 years ago, in Agent of Change.
Twenty-nine years ago.
Well. I guess I’ve earned those purple hairs.
Before anyone asks: Nope, still don’t know when the eArc of Neogenesis will appear at a Baen.com near you. The last word I had, from two “Baen insiders” (editors, actually, but “Baen insiders” sounds infinitely cooler than “editor”) was that the eArc would be available in September. That is the sum of my knowledge on the subject (honest!). If you need to know more, you need to write to Baen.
What else? The fountain pen experiment continues to go well. I have one pen (out of, er, four? that escalated quickly) that I’m not really crazy about, but I am declaring success.
So, that seems to be all the news. Everybody be well.
How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food
As growth slows in wealthy countries, Western food companies are aggressively expanding in developing nations, contributing to obesity and health problems.
By ANDREW JACOBS and MATT RICHTEL
Nestlé Targets High-End Coffee by Taking Majority Stake in Blue Bottle
By MICHAEL J. de la MERCED and OLIVER STRAND
The deal highlights the continued hot streak of artisanal coffee, whose rapid growth and fanatical customer base have continued to draw big business.
Nadine Malouf making kibbe in “Oh My Sweet Land,” written and directed by Amir Nizar Zuabi.
Review: In ‘Oh My Sweet Land,’ Dinner Is Served. Don’t Come Hungry.
Set in a real home, an unnamed woman cooks while she relates piercing tales about the horrors in Syria.
By ALEXIS SOLOSKI
The Food Court Matures Into the Food Hall
Food halls — typically a mix of local artisan restaurants, butcher shops and other food-oriented boutiques — are becoming popular as consumers demand more options.
By JOE GOSE
After a day spent hauling flood-soaked belongings from their home in the Nottingham Forest of Houston, Linda and Jon Fabian sit on their lawn with a few glasses of wine.
Harvey and Irma Wiped Out Our Kitchens. Still, We Cook.
America has never lost so many stoves and pantries at once, but home cooks are intent on finding a way — any way — to make meals.
By KIM SEVERSON
Yotam Ottolenghi on Creating Recipes and His Cookbook ‘Sweet’
For the British chef, author and self-described baking nerd, there is no limit to the number of times you can make a cake in order to get it right.
The world’s best chocolate cake? Maybe so.
Pistachio and Rose Water Semolina Cake
By YOTAM OTTOLENGHI
Recipes: Pistachio and Rose Water Semolina Cake | World’s Best Chocolate Cake
At her home in Tanana, Alaska, Cynthia Erickson and some young volunteers decorate a lemon-blueberry cake from a mix that she jazzes up.
In Alaska’s Far-Flung Villages, Happiness Is a Cake Mix
The store-bought box, one of the few dependable food items in a place of scarcity, is tricked out for dinners and fund-raisers by many a “cake lady.”
By JULIA O'MALLEY
Recipe: Mom’s Famous Rum Cake
These zucchini and tomato tartlets with a Cheddar crust, which call for turning up the oven to roast the vegetables, are perfectly timed for autumn’s arrival.
Roasted Summer Vegetables Tucked Into Tartlets
September’s cooler weather means it’s the perfect time to bake with late summer zucchini and tomatoes.
By MELISSA CLARK
Recipe: Zucchini and Tomato Tartlets With a Cheddar Crust
Fresh sardines, are delightful, and well worth knowing. For an extra flourish, it’s fun to cook sardines on large fig leaves.
Canned Are Grand, but Fresh Sardines Are Deliciously Simple
These small fish are healthy, sustainable and easy to grill at home, whether over hot coals or under the broiler.
By DAVID TANIS
INSIDE THE LIST
Alice Waters’s Grilled Cheese Is Not Like Yours and Mine
In her best-selling new memoir, “Coming to My Senses,” the chef recommends a French mountain cheese and homemade sauerkraut for a childhood staple.
By GREGORY COWLES
Jellyfish Seek Italy’s Warming Seas. Can’t Beat ’Em? Eat ’Em.
With climate change, jellyfish are booming in the Mediterranean, to the point that researchers say there may be little to do but to live with them.
By JASON HOROWITZ
Nathaly Nicolas-Ianniello, a former journalist covering ecological issues, opened NA/NA in the 11th Arrondissement of Paris in 2015.
A Life’s Many Acts Culminate in the Kitchen at NA/NA in Paris
The chef Nathaly Nicolas-Ianniello, a former ecological journalist, serves dishes like ganache with black sesame miso to adventurous Parisians.
By MELISSA CLARK
The Secret to Amazing Mango Kulfi Comes in a Can
Quick mango kulfi.
The idea that fresh is always better is both simple and false.
By TEJAL RAO
Recipe: Quick Mango Kulfi
The salt in the chocolate bits is the surprise, and it’s also the great reconciler.
An Ideal Sundae
Like many of life’s great things, ice cream concoctions are best when governed by rules.
By DORIE GREENSPAN
Recipe: Hot Fudge and Salted Chocolate Bits Sundae
Pinot noir grapes ripen in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
The Oregon Trail
The latest winemakers to settle in the region are bringing new perspectives, fresh energy and heartfelt enthusiasm to the country’s most exciting wine area.
By ERIC ASIMOV
When Tom isn't traveling, he's with me during the week, but spends most weekends going places with his fraternity or visiting his parents. This means for the six months he's in town, I get perhaps one weekend.
We are saving for a house, and Tom's constant recreational travel is cutting into our budget. I want our couple time back, as well as time to take care of things at home. I've suggested compromises (such as two weekends away and two weekends home), but things always come up that he "has to do." Two months ago, I was let go from my job. That same afternoon, Tom left on a trip with friends that could have easily been cancelled. I can't use those same weekends to visit my family because they are too far away, so I spend a lot of time sitting home alone.
I know nothing unsavory is going on. Tom is a wonderful guy. I have no intention of leaving him. I knew when we met that his job would require a lot of travel, but these personal weekends are difficult for me. I know he hates being inactive or staying home, but it seems excessive. How can we come up with a workable solution? -- Home Alone
Dear Home: Tom thinks he already has a workable solution and has no incentive to compromise. After all, he sees you all week. Right now, his schedule is a minor hardship for you, but if you marry and have children, it will be a major problem. You'll have to revisit this issue then.
Meanwhile, we are never in favor of sitting home alone moping. Please find things to occupy yourself during the weekends when Tom is absent. Look for part-time work. Take classes to bone up on your skills. Go biking. Accompany him when he visits his family, and get to know them better.
Oh wow, is it time for the end of the world again?
Apparently so. The latest in this incredibly long list of doomsday-prophecies-that-will-never-
This is terrible! Scheduling it on a Saturday keeps it out of the news cycle.
OK, snark aside — and I’ll admit that’s hard after you’ve debunked dozens of these kinds of claims — this particular cry of doomsday seems to be thriving where such things usually do: breathless YouTube videos and Facebook pages that carry a lot of dire warning but very little in the way of actual evidence.
I’m not sure where this one started, specifically; it may be from David Meade, someone who may best be described as a conspiracy theorist. He’s created a horrid combination of Biblical quotes and Nibiru claims (because, of course; more on that in a sec) and predicts the beginning calamity starting on September 23.
The key Bible passage is from Revelation 12:
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
[Note: The exact phrasing of this changes depending on what version of the Bible you read; an interesting problem given that, in many cases on the web, the doomsday promulgators are also Bible literalists.]
Right off the bat, let me be clear: The language in many biblical passages, especially Revelations, is vague enough that interpretation is loose, and it’s not too hard to fit lots of different meanings to the words. If you look around hard enough, you’re bound to find something that kinda, sorta, sounds like it works.
In this case, the story goes, the woman in the passage is the constellation Virgo. “Clothed with the Sun” means the Sun is in the constellation, and “the moon under her feet” means the Moon is nearby, too. That part happens all the time; the Sun is in Virgo for about six weeks every year. The Moon is in Virgo for several days during that time, and even “under her feet” (as the constellation is classically depicted her feet are to the east and her head to the west) for a couple of days.
So, why September 23rd of 2017? The key part, as far as I can tell, is the position of Jupiter. The largest planet in the solar system, as seen from Earth, is also in Virgo, and is supposed to represent the child being born — it’s claimed Jupiter leaves Virgo on the 23rd.
There are several problems with this. The biggest is also the simplest: Jupiter doesn’t leave the constellation on the 23rd. If you want to be pedantic, the constellation boundaries are well defined officially, and Jupiter doesn’t cross into Libra (the next constellation down the line) until November. If you use the classical astrological boundaries for the zodiac constellations, Jupiter already left Virgo in early September. Either way, Jupiter leaving Virgo on the 23rd doesn’t make sense.
Now, you might say, “well, Jupiter represents a baby being born, so maybe the 23rd is when Jupiter comes out of the part of Virgo where, y’know, babies are born from.”
That would be a nice try, except Jupiter is nowhere near Virgo’s lady parts. It’s way off to the side, and having had some experience here, I can be pretty sure that’s not where babies come from.
So, Bible aside, what’s the deal with Nibiru?
Well, nothing. I mean, literally. Nibiru doesn’t exist.
According to various conspiracy theorists, though, Nibiru is the name given to a purported giant planet in the outer solar system that sweeps by the Earth every 3600 years causing, well, Biblical disasters (not to be confused with Planet Nine, an as-yet theoretical planet that could be in the outer solar system). This idea has a long history; it has its roots with the wild claims of Immanuel Velikovsky in the mid 20th century; he figured that Biblical catastrophes described in the Bible were real events, and tried to find astronomical ways to cause them. In the end, his lack of historical scholarship was only outstripped by his lack of astronomical understanding, and he abused astronomy trying to explain imagined historical events (the history of his ideas and how they were treated is fascinating; I dedicated a chapter in my first book, Bad Astronomy to this).
Still, despite an utter lack of reality, his idea caught on and has been reshaped and reproposed over the years. Zechariah Sitchin used it to dream up a “12th planet” in the solar system, and wrote a series of badly researched books on the idea, and then it was picked up by Nancy Lieder, who claimed in the 1990s that aliens from Zeta Reticuli were telepathically communicating with her to warn her of the impending destruction of Earth by Nibiru. She predicted very confidently it would come in May 2003.
Despite the lack of an Earth-shattering kaboom on that date, this myth lives on. People who cleave to this idea see evidence of this planet in every photo, every solar storm, everywhere. The fact that scientists (like me) debunk it is only more proof of the conspiracy to hide it from the public. This is what I call a cul-de-sac of logic; once you’re in it, you’ve cut yourself off from any sort of evidence against it. You’re lost.
So, the way Nibiru fits into this weekend’s notpocalypse is that, in the Bible passage, the dragon in the prophecy is Nibiru, itself, its immense gravity (which up until now has had precisely zero observable effects on any solar system objects) will drop meteors and comets on us (“Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth”), and so on.
The thing is, Nibiru is supposed to be a giant planet. Jupiter, the actual biggest planet in the solar system, is easily visible even though it’s hundreds of millions of kilometers away; it’s one of the brightest natural objects in the sky. A bigger planet even closer would be far, far brighter. Yet, when you go outside, nothing like that can be seen.
So, this end-of-the-world nonsense is just that: nonsense. It’s the usual stuff from this corner of the ‘net, and I can happily say, “ho hum”. Nibiru has been the cause of predicted doom and gloom over and over again, and all these predictions have one thing in common: They never happen (remember the Mayan doomsday in 2012?). They can’t happen. As I’ve written many times, if Nibiru were really out there, it would leave an obvious swath of destruction and chaos, altering the planets’ orbits, the asteroids, moons, and everything so profoundly that you could see the effects by simply going outside at night and looking up. Put simply, the solar system as we see it now couldn’t exist in its present form if Nibiru were real.
Therefore, Nibiru isn’t real.
And so, therefore, neither is this next doomsday.
And I’ll admit, this kind of stuff makes me angry. There are people out there who don’t have the experience or astronomical knowledge (or who have mental health issues like anxiety and cosmophobia) to understand just how full of fertilizer so many of these self-proclaimed doomsday prophets are. And these people can get really scared, worrying about a disaster that will never come.
When I look around, I see plenty of very real things to be concerned with. Let’s try to fix the actual world, please, and not worry about ones that are made up out of nothing.2
Listicle Display TypeDefault
Show the Media Gallery title
Video Hero Autoplay
Show on Hero
What did I do INSTEAD of reading? I wish I knew. Part of this, I think, is getting back into the "Back to School" mode. Mason was sick with a cold late last week (he missed school on Friday), and then Shawn promptly caught it. So I've been doing a lot of nursemaiding.
Ugh. Work just called. They wanted me to go into New Brighton's' branch tonight and work 5 to 8. I probably should have said yes, but I work both tomorrow and Friday.
Also? It's MasterChef's finale tonight.
I know this sounds stupid, but ever since Mason was very small we have, as a family, been fans of MasterChef. It's the one network TV show we actually tune in for. All three of us gather in the TV room upstairs and adjust the rabbit ears so that we can watch the show. It's not even all that great. Most people would probably prefer The Great British Baking Show or Iron Chef. Not us. We're faithful to Gordon Ramsey and his disappointed looks and rants about things that are "rawr."
For once, too, the contestants left standing at the end are all weirdos. There's one white guy, but he's fully tattooed, bleach blond, and heroin-addict skinny... and a super-odd, with very Italian-American from Brooklyn accent. Currently, I'm rooting for Jason, an Asian-American guy who comes with a male partner, kind of BECAUSE he's gay (though he is one of the most cheerful people they've had on). The other contestant is Eboni, a black woman from Chicago. We like them all. This is one of the few times where we won't be disappointed with whoever wins.
Skipping work for TV, though? Probably I'm going to hell.
While I’m recovering from Insane Bike Ride 2017 (Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.), I should probably let you know I’ll be at Hal-Con, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this weekend. The gust list is pretty awesome – come check it out!
Friday, Sept. 22
- 6:00pm – 7:00pm ~ Sketch Battle (Coca-Cola Stage)
Saturday, Sept. 23
- 12:00pm – 12:45pm ~ Dork Tower and Munckin – A +10 Life in Gaming (Room 301)
- 1 pm – 2 pm Signing, Booth A2
- 7:00PM – 9:00pm ~ Stargazer Soiree in Delta Halifax
Sunday, Sept. 24
- 12:45pm – 1:30pm ~ Creating Fun: Game Creation From Script to Sale (Room 302-3)
- 1:45 – 2:45 Signing, Booth A2
Hal-Con very generously gave me a table (a2 – about as appropriate for a British-born cartoonist as you could imagine), but I won’t be bringing anything to sell. I’ll post additional times there, though, if you’d like to bring anything along to get signed. Saturday and Sunday I’ll try and be there as soon as the doors open.
Judith and I adore Canada, and it will be great to be back!
Insane Charity Bike Ride 2017 was magnificent. A record-breaker, even! Thank you all!
I’ll try and post a full report soon, but here’s how I spent my Sunday night: