Data Loss

May. 20th, 2011 10:13 pm
greygirlbeast: (Eocene)
It's easy to imagine some of the questions that scholars* might want to ask when they look back on the story of our times. When did the last ice sheets melt away? At what point did the oceans finish acidifying? How rapidly were national boundaries reshuffled in response to sea-level rise? Some of these questions will be answered by written documents, but not necessarily as many as we might think.

Much of today's recorded history will eventually be lost simply because so many of its documents are electronic. The devices and codes that create and decipher them change so often in the interest of big business that they become useless within decades or less. Not to mention centuries. The effects of this are already apparent in my own home. I'm still saving some old-fashioned floppy disks that used to feed data into my TRS-80 computer back in the 1980s even though I'll never be able to read them again.


from Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth by Curt Stager

* Assuming there are any remaining.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
Okay, so. Back on January 16, 2010, I posted just how much it cost me and Spooky to travel from Providence for me to take part in a reading at the Montauk Club in Brooklyn, a post that included an itemized list of our expenses that night. $111.46, total. And we were only gone about 12 hours, something like that. The point of making that post was to demonstrate why I so rarely travel significant distances to make public appearances.

Our Tuesday/Wednesday trip to Manhattan stands as another prime example. Below is an itemized list of our expenses:

1. Round-trip bus fare (Providence to Port Authority) x 2*: $160
2. Cab fare (three cab rides): $58**
3. Parking at the bus*** depot in Providence: $16
4. Three soft drinks: $7
Total: $241 (for a day and a half)

Now, keep in mind, we had a place to stay, so no hotel bill, and Peter and Susan picked up the dinner tab on Tuesday, then Peter fixed us breakfast, so no meals were purchased. Lodging and meal expenses could easily have added another $200+. For one night. Obviously, a four-day convention is much more expensive.

Now, I also have to add to the total our museum visit, which added $53. But. We virtually never do anything of that sort. Our normal monthly entertainment expenditure averages less than $60. So, you add the museum (which isn't the business part), the cost goes up to $294.

* If you're wondering why I don't save money by traveling alone, the short answer is because I'm not well enough to do so, not at the present. Maybe at some future date, but not now.

** True, the subway would have been much cheaper. But. Our schedule would have made using the subway extremely inconvenient, neither of us are familiar with the routes, and riding the subway vastly increases the odds of catching this or that bug and sacrificing more money to lost days/productivity once the trip is over. I've used the subway lots (last January, for example). This time, it simply wasn't practical.

*** Had we taken Amtrak from Kingston, RI it would have cost us about twice as much.

So, why don't I do more conventions, readings outside Providence, etc.? This is why. Rarely do such activities even begin to prove cost effective. What they do, primarily, is increase my visibility within the community of writers and editors. Most readings net tiny attendance and insignificant book sales (and often lead to bookstores returning the extra stock they ordered for the event, which drives up my return rate). Far bigger names than me often have lousy turnouts at readings. And even if, say, fifty people show up (and for most of us, that's a huge turnout), what the bookstore makes selling books, and what your publisher makes, is likely less than what it cost you to travel to the event.

So, what work-related traveling I do, I choose the trips with great care. I do only those things I really, really want to do. KGB readings, for example. And ReaderCon. Of course, if an event or publisher is willing to pay for all my expenses, I'll usually make the trip; this has almost never happened for me.

I would also add, it horrifies me to think how much I would increase my carbon footprint...

By the way, have I mentioned this wonderful book my [livejournal.com profile] nihilistic_kid (Nick Mamatas), Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
In a somewhat dark place this morning. It's cloudy and cold and windy, the Outside reflecting my internal weather, or, to be more precise (and less egocentric), my mood reflecting the dismal weather Outside my office window.

Yesterday was one of the frustrating sorts of writing days. I spent over an hour searching for a title. I read through T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets" for about the hundred billionth time. I found a very appropriate epigraph in an Oscar Wilde essay, and then I realized the vignette's title was "At the Reef." I read long passages of Joseph Campbell, Jung, and a book on Byron and Romanticism. It was after four p.m. before I finally started writing, and I got only 502 words done. Today, I have to hope I wrote well yesterday. My plan had been to finish this piece today (yes, two vignettes in four days), but now I see it's time to revise the plan. I'll push forward with "On the Reef" today, finish a long interview tomorrow, then finish "On the Reef" on Saturday, which will take care of most of Sirenia Digest #59. Maybe take Sunday off. Then, next week, try to get back to The Drowning Girl, as the novel has sat neglected since August (and even with the second deadline extension, it's expected in March). But November will be spent on a short story and the contents of Sirenia Digest #59.

The truth is, if I had about a hundred more subscribers to Sirenia Digest, and believed that the subscriber base was reasonably stable, I'd stop trying to write novels. I'd write my vignettes and short stories and maybe the occasional novella, and that would be just fine.

---

For a sobering look at what's being done to the planet, have a look at the NASA/JPL/Cal Tech Climate Time Machine. Just don't tell the teabaggers. They're pretty sure all this talk of global warming is really a communist/Islamic plot to deprive them of Wal-Mart and the NFL.

---

I've grown very accustomed, thanks to the Lamictal...a wondrous, merciful drug I wished I'd had twenty years ago...to not having to cope with Angry Caitlín. But, even now there are rare days, like today, when she finds her way out into the world.

---

Thanks to everyone who's voted in the podcast poll (if you haven't, please do). Speaking to those who have expressed concerns that, were I to do this, I would only be adding one more thing to a plate that is far too full, that it would give me yet another deadline to worry over, here's my reply. No, it won't. For one, as it's free, I'd plan it once a month, but if I miss a month, whatever. No big deal. For another, my end of the thing would consist of me sitting at my desk reading a vignette or short story into the tiny little microphone (DO NOT DARE SAY "MIC" WHEN YOU MEAN "MIKE," thank you), and then emailing it to the person who would a) turn the sound file into something that could be downloaded and b) post it to be downloaded. So, each reading would require about an hour of my time. As for copyright issues, the audio files would be released under Creative Commons, though I would reserve all other rights on the stories. So, that's not an issue, either.

The only real concern is the one I've already stated, my own dislike of my voice. And that's something only I can overcome (or not).

---

Too much time has been going to MMORPGs lately. But...how is that any worse than watching television or hanging out in bars or playing endless rounds of Scrabble? True, I ought to be spending all that time reading. I know that. But, at the end of the day, I'm usually too tired from writing to read.

Anyway, still having a lot of fun with WoW, and eagerly awaiting the Cataclysm expansion. But most of my gaming time the last couple of weeks has gone into City of Heroes and Villains. It's kind of funny, because I've never cared for superhero comics. Last night, though, I pretty much resolved to stop playing CoX as a game, and just go to it for rp. The game's engine is just too clunky and the game architecture too cryptic and tedious. Plus, my 2007 iMac's not quite up to Cox and I get serious latency issues. Load screens take for fucking ever. And I've never played a game with so many load screens. Add to this the impossibility of soloing (i.e., enforced socialization), and also my being blind in one eye, which makes it pretty much impossible for me to track the insane rate of combat in the missions, and I'd just rather stick with WoW as for as actual gaming goes. I've leveled my villain to 25, but can't seem to find any interest in leveling her farther. So, I'll rp in CoX, which is really what I need from it anyway, because I can't get good rp anywhere else (though, I very much look forward to the release of CCP Games' World of Darkness MMORPG, which has the potential to be exactly what I've been looking for since, well, forever).

Meanwhile, Kathryn's been playing a lot of Middle Earth Online. While I still think the avatars look like action figures circa 1976, she's enjoying it a great deal. And, I will admit, the environments are pretty amazing (just don't get me started on the horses). I geeked out over seeing the Party Tree in Hobbiton. From what I can see, Middle Earth Online takes it's basic design from WoW, but I am disposed to look upon it a bit more kindly now, if only because Spooky's enjoying it so much.

And the Platypus is cutting me off....
greygirlbeast: (Bowie3)
Scary stuff for a Thursday morning. "An unprecedented extreme in the northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation has driven a strong direct connecting current between the Gulf Stream and the West Greenland current."

---

This is me writing about not writing. Four days after I "typed" the title page for The Wolf Who Cried Girl, I've still not found my way into the beginning. I cannot even figure out if there should be a prologue or not. I suspect not, though omitting one, in this instance, creates a cascade of structural problems within the novel.

Still a great deal of ice and snow here in Providence.

I'm not sleeping well, though I am, at least, sleeping.

I'm back to that place where I'd rather be anyone but me. Withdrawal into alternate lifelines and avatars. Not into easier lives, or personalities, mind you; a withdrawal into those not so choked by this particular monotony.

The Audible.com contracts were located at the offices of the Audible.com editors. I think that's what I have to show for good news for this week thus far. And I cling to splinters these days.

Swings through the tunnels,
And claws his way.
Is small life so manic?
Are these really the days?
(David Bowie, "A Small Plot of Land")
greygirlbeast: (earth)
Final Stages of the Complete Collapse of the Antarctic's Wilkins Ice Shelf.
greygirlbeast: (earth)
Ice-Free Arctic Summers Likely Sooner Than Expected
greygirlbeast: (Ellen Ripley 2)
Most of yesterday was spent sitting here, not writing, simply trying to find the piece I need to have finished a week ago for Sirenia Digest #40. I have to find it today. I also looked over the CEM for The Red Tree with Spooky, and the copy-editors' marks are light, indeed, just as Anne (my editor) said. Which is a huge relief, time constraints and exhaustion being what they are.

I'm also pleased to see that there have already been two bids on the long-lost Monster Doodle sculpture.

Late yesterday afternoon, or early yesterday evening...whichever...Spooky pried me away from the computer, where I was not writing, where my fingers were not moving across the keyboard, where the MS Word "page" was still fucking blank, and took me to Warwick to see Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon's Monsters vs. Aliens. It was actually a lot of fun, despite what Roger Ebert says. Of course, we were smart and avoided the 3D nonsense. I thought it was big, goofy fun. Insectosaurus made me smile, as did Stephen Colbert's President Hathaway.

---

Turns out, after a lot of complaints, Magnolia Entertainment/Magnet are releasing a second version of Låt den rätte komma in, with the theatrical-release English subtitles restored. But, they refuse to offer exchanges to those of us who bought the butchered version of the DVD.

---

I have very mixed feelings about this whole Earth Hour thing. Yes, Spooky and I will be shutting off the lights (and other electrical appliances) between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. But I can't help but feel that this whole affair is little more than an empty gesture. If governments began requiring nightly blackouts, especially as regards nonessential lighting, it would be a very small step in the right direction, and we might begin to see a difference. Mostly, this is the sort of thing that strikes me as belonging in the "too little, too late" bin, no matter how many warm fuzzies it might inspire, or how many cramping consciences it might alleviate.

Anyway, time to think wicked thoughts...in the most artistic manner possible, of course.
greygirlbeast: (white)
Looking back at the inaugural speech, which I've read through a couple of times now, there are two little bits that I adore and just want to give a quick mention to before moving along to other things. First, President Obama's acknowledgment of atheists and agnostics as legitimate segments of a pluralistic society. That made me almost as happy as the inclusion of gays in his acceptance speech:

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.

And, also, his nod to the vital role that science, set aside by the Bush Administration as inconvenient and irreligious. must play:

We will restore science to its rightful place...

And, speaking of science's rightful place, it goes without saying that I was very happy about the repeated references to global warming.

---

Yesterday was pretty much consumed by the inauguration. I cannot even recall the last time that a national event kept me so captivated. 9/11? Hurricane Katrina? The invasion of Iraq? The crash of the space shuttle Columbia? But, this time, I was captivated not by horror and tragedy, but by unity and the possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel. Or at least the possibility that the tunnel may have an end. That has to count for something, so I don't feel too bad about allowing the words to languish yesterday.

Today, now that I've decided on the Edgar Allan Poe theme for Sirenia Digest #38, I need to figure out, quickly, exactly what that means as regards what I'll be writing. I suspect I'll be re-reading "The Premature Burial" and "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," and a great deal of his poetry. I'd love to write a piece called "The Thousand-and-Third Tale of Scheherazade," but that that may a little ambitious, given the deadline and all. We'll just have to see. Anyway, it should be an interesting issue.

Last night, very late (three ayem to half past four), I watched Resident Alien (1990), Jonathan Nossiter's documentary on Quentin Crisp. It didn't help my insomnia, but it was quite entirely wonderful. Crisp remains one among my motley band of role models. Is it odd to be -4 (and almost -5) and still have role models? I should hope not, but I never know how people look at these things.

I was going to say something about Second Life, since I admitted, a few days ago, to falling back into it again. Here's the thing. Upon returning, I have found some genuinely marvelous roleplayers, people I knew from before, and also people who are new to me. And here when I say "rp" I am referring to improvisational theatre, or simulationism. Total immersion. And I do treasure these people. But there is no denying that the majority of SL, so far as I can see, not only has no interest in rp, or making any sort of use of SL for artistic ends, it's also dumb as a bag of hammers. Or a doorknob. Or what have you. Indeed, I am quite certain now that SL, either intentionally or unintentionally, selects for stupidity and illiteracy, the way that natural selection might favour tricuspid teeth or osteoderms. And here I'm not talking about a casual, easily overlooked stupidity, but one that is bone-jarringly deep and constantly, aggressively drawing attention to itself. A proud sort of stupid. So, in order to take part in SL, I am having to struggle to rp around the idiots, and there are days, like yesterday, when it almost gets the better of me again. I just don't do dumb as a rock. I think I might have tried it on one weekend in 1988, but found it wanting (and a bit snug about the bust). It should not surprise me, and I see that clearly now, that SL draws to itself the lowest common denominator, those with apparent (if not actual) low intelligence, almost nonexistent social skills, and a refusal to express themselves in complete sentences. But it does. Surprise me, I mean. It just seems very sad, and like a gigantic waste of both human potential and of electricity (and time, and the oil used to make plastic, and I could go on and on), just to turn a profit for Linden Labs and enshrine the Church of LOL and provide a playground for those who deem thoughtful characterization "too emo." Still, I'm not giving up again. At least not just yet. But I came very close last night, and I thank Joah for pulling me back.

And yes, I am carping. It's something I do very well.

And if you've still not ordered your copy of A is for Alien, due out next month from Subterranean Press, please take a moment to do so today. The platypus will smile upon you.
greygirlbeast: (white2)
The snow arrived yesterday afternoon about 2:30 p.m. (CaST). And it's still snowing, though big clumps now, that drift lazily about before settling on rooftops and power lines and sidewalks. Very different from the tiny crystals that started this storm, and that fell for at least twelve hours non-stop. I've not seen so much snow since the winters of '92 and '93, when freak winter storms pounded Birmingham, Alabama. And I'm not sure we got this much then. It just did more damage, as Birmingham was ill-equipped for such weather. It is so amazingly white outside. The sky is lying on the rooftops, which is oddly comforting. I don't know how much snow has fallen on Federal Hill, but I hear some parts of Rhode Island got as much as twelve inches. It will be a white Solstice this year.

I took photographs from the office window. They're larger than usual, because I was determined to show icicles.

No writing again yesterday. And that has to stop today or tomorrow. But the anticipation of the coming storm, and then the snow itself. How could I write through that? This will all become old hat to me soon enough. I want to keep these sights and sensations novel and delightful as long as I can. Though, there's an unexpected anxiety, too, a sort of smothering that seems to lurk at the edges of everything. I'm not claustrophobic, but I begin to guess that it's what eventually turns to "cabin fever." Everything is so white, and so close.

Yesterday, thanks to Ellen Datlow, I found out about Larry Fessenden's The Last Winter (2006). I'd missed this film, though I'm a great fan of two of Fessenden's earlier films, Habit (1996) and Wendigo (2001). I was less impressed by his earlier No Telling (1991), but we shouldn't be judged by our eary efforts. I have this ever increasing fear of being judged by Silk, and even Threshold, when my writing has matured so much since then that you'd hardly think my recent stories and Daughter of Hounds and The Red Tree were written by the same person who wrote those novels. I'm digressing, just like Sarah Crowe (you'll see, eventually). Anyway, The Last Winter is quite good. Here and there, the acting wobbles a bit (or the direction; you can never know which), and I sort of wish that we'd not seen so much of "the monsters" at the end. But they are damned creepy monsters. A great deal of this story was clearly inspired by Algernon Blackwood's "The Wendigo," turned towards the subject of global warming. The film is marvelously atmospheric, creating a mood of isolation and closeness and expectation that becomes almost unbearable at times. You can stream it from Netflix for free, so have a look. Though, maybe it's best not watched on a snowy day.

Later, we watched the first two episodes of Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks (1974), and then read more of The Historian. There was insomnia still later, inspired in part, I think, by the snow. It was sometime after 6 ayem and two Ambien before I managed to get to sleep.

At twilight yesterday we walked in the snow. Dexter Training Ground had been transformed into the interior of a snow globe. There was absolutely no distinction between sky and ground. The towers of the Armory were grey silhouettes against a deeper grey. There were ecstatic dogs, bounding about their people. By then, the snow was already quite deep, and already people were out shoveling. There was a hush laid over everything. No sound seemed to travel more than a few feet, excepting those sounds that seem to reach us, muffled, from very far away. It was beautiful. Spooky looked positively Cro-Magnon as her dreads collected snow.

This morning, I had my first cup of coffee in the front parlour, and watched a pair of seagulls soaring above the street. They were almost lost to view, or simply lost, against the alabaster sky.

Please take a peek at the current eBay auctions. It's heartening to see that Letter V of Frog Toes and Tentacles already has a bid. Thank you. New items will be added today or tomorrow.

Okay. Oh, I do apologize for spending part of yesterday butchering the French language via my Facebook account. Today, i think I'll butcher German. The photos are behind the cut:

December 20, 2008 )
greygirlbeast: (chi3)
I awoke at 9:30 ayem with a splitting headache that refuses to let go, despite the aspirin and Tylenol and caffeine (fair warning —— do not tell me caffeine is causing my headaches, not today). I cannot think. I am deluged in news pollution. Sure, yes, the soil near the Martian north pole is highly alkaline and filled with nutritious minerals, confirming my suspicions. And that is grand, and that is joyful. But. Meanwhile, climatologists are laying even odds that this summer will be the first time in all of human history that Earth's north polar caps may be ice free. The U.S. and the Russians are already squabbling over who has the rights to high-latitude seaways that have are being created by global warming.

This is irony, black and simple.

Yesterday I wrote 1,224 words on Chapter One of The Red Tree. On the one hand, I see the story unfolding, and I am starting to see my way along this trail. Or trial. But, on the other hand, I remain terrified of this very, very strange novel that I have been left with so little time to write. I have reached a point in my writing career where the publishing industry has "branded" or categorized me, placing me towards the "horror" end of the "urban dark fantasy" spectrum. This has very little to do with what I write or how I wish what I write to be perceived. It has to do with marketing strategies and demographics and sales trends and figures and other such bullshit that has nothing whatsoever to do with writing. My publisher expects a certain sort of novel from me. Mostly, the want me to write like other, more successful authors, or, at least, continue to write like my earlier novels. Without being told outright, I know this. But, The Red Tree, while bearing many thematic similarities to those earlier novels, is something different. For one thing, it isn't urban. For another, there are many metafictional elements, and I know that many people who read from that category into which I have been shoved, and who review it, are only marginally literate and will be offended by what they deem pretense (it is pretense, of course, as the unpretentious novel has never been written and never will be) and too artsy and whatever other adjectives marginally literate readers cling to for dear life. I fear my agent's reaction to the manuscript I have not yet written, and the reaction of my publisher, and the fact that I have two or three months to write a book that wants at least a year, and all of this slows my writing even more. It will be a miracle if I write even one word on the novel today; the insecurity is simply too great, especially given the boost it's getting from this bloody headache.

Anyway, once the writing was done yesterday, there was time for a quick bath, time to get dressed, and make it over to India on Hope Street (across from Swan Point Cemetery, where HPL is buried, and Lippett Memorial Park), where we were meeting S. T. Joshi and his wife, Leslie, along with Angel Dean (local musician and artist) and Jonathan Thomas (a local writer and musician) for dinner. Gods, what a poorly constructed sentence. But, yes, dinner. Quite a marvelous dinner. Spooky and I ordered the saag paneer and lamb vindaloo. Both were perfect, and the lamb's heat was quite satisfying. We talked about, I don't know...everything. Lovecraft, writing and writers, the fact that I went to high school with Charles Barkley, Providence, documentaries, Woonsocket, food, weather, anti-depressants, the Carter Administration, Princeton, Brown University, small-press publishing, albino swamp Yankees, Indian cinema, genre, and I don't know, a hundred other things. I think it was about 9:30 p.m. when Spooky and I got home. My thanks to Joshi and company for a fine evening. It will be a long time until I'm used to this "social life" that I suddenly seem to have developed. Oh, and because I am such a hopeless fangirl, I actually brought my copy of the second edition of H. P. Lovecraft: A Life along for S. T. to sign. Yeah, I'm a goddamned dork.

So...I'm pretty much at a loss today. Your guess is a good as mine.
greygirlbeast: (talks to wolves)
Yesterday, after I finally managed to deal with the great hillocks of email that had accumulated during the trip from Atlanta to Providence, and having learned that our furniture would not be delivered until this afternoon, we reluctantly got back into the car and headed west out of Providence. Oh, but before I tell that part, I should say these other things.

First, Sirenia Digest #30.1 has now gone out to subscribers. It differs in no significant way from #30, except that it includes Vince's illustration for "Rappaccini's Dragon," which I neglected to include in the first version of May's issue. It's the first time an artist has reproduced one of Albert Perrault's dreadful paintings, though they have figured — more or less prominently — in at least four of my stories, beginning, I believe, with "The Road of Pins." Also, please have a look at [livejournal.com profile] kambriel's Unexpected Moving Sale. You will find many a wonderful notion, have no doubt. My thanks to Greg Fox for the photos he sent me yesterday of Charles Fort's grave at Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, New York. Another place I have to visit very, very soon. Also, there's been quite a positive review of Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy in Locus. It's far too long for me to quote in its entirety, but has this to say about "The Steamdancer (1896)," my contribution to the anthology:

...an effective steampunk sketch of a crippled woman who obtains new life from her artificial eye and limbs, ugliness made beauty for many a kinkily lustful eye...

Okay. Now back to the events of yesterday. Though the weather was cold, windy, and wet, I needed to have my first firsthand look at the Moosup Valley/Barbs Hill Road area, south of Foster, in western Rhode Island, the area that is the setting for The Red Tree. So, we headed west through North Scituate, turning onto 102 at Chopmist, which we followed south to Plainfield Pike, which, in turn, took us to Moosup Valley Road. Unfortunately, the old Tyler Library, which I'd wanted to have a better look at, is closed on Thursdays. Instead, we stopped to have a look at the pond behind the cemetery across the street from the library, as it will be one of the models for the novel's fictional "Ramswool Pond." At once, we were astounded at a truly amazing amount of scat littering the soggy, sandy ground. I guessed we were seeing raccoon droppings, but the only tracks I could locate were those of a very large species of anseriformid bird. As we marveled at the acres of poo, two Canadian geese (Branta canadensis) flew by overhead. Clearly, a very large flock of geese had stopped at the pond shortly before our arrival. We walked about the place for a bit, noting plants, birds, a beaver-notched tree, and what we could see of the local geology. But the great quantities of goose scat were, to say the least, off-putting, and we soon left. We did spot a goldfinch (Carduelis tristis), happily bathing in the stream flowing from the pond into the marshes at the edge of the Moosup River. Inspired by Edward Gorey's The Deranged Cousins; or Whatever., we christened the pond "The Goose's Restroom," then got back into the car and headed south along Barbs Hill Road. In the summer, the country in this part of the state seems truly wild, the fern-fringed macadam road vaulted by an incredibly green and shadowy forest of second-growth pines, maples, and oaks. There were skunk cabbages, wild grapes, green briers, honeysuckle, daisy fleabane, cowslip — I didn't keep a list of all the flora. Maybe next trip. We saw several farmhouses along the road, some dating back to the 18th Century. There was a small herd of goats, and a couple of collies. We crossed the Moosup River again near where it empties into Briggs Pond, pausing there on the bridge for a bit.

The long, curving road ends at Rice City and Vaughn Hollow, and we headed east again, to visit Spooky's mother at her parents' farm near the University of Rhode Island (where her father is a professor and department head; he's currently doing work in some faraway place I cannot now recall). It was the first time we'd had a chance to stop by her parent's place since we arrived. We played with Spider (a truly enormous cat), looked through photographs of Spooky's great-grandmother and grandmother (her mom's engaged in an elaborate geneological project involving the letters of Margaret Russell —— née, Winslow —— Spooky's great-grandmother, who left Appleton, WI, and moved away to the wilds of South Dakota in the first decade of the 20th Century). We got fresh eggs and a number of other things that we needed (all our pots and pans being on a moving truck somewhere*), then headed back to Providence. I think we got home about 7 pm. Here are some photos, behind the cut:

Moosup Valley and Barbs Hill )


My thanks for the amazing number of comments yesterday. There were even MySpace comments, which are rare, in my experience. Most everyone who commented was of the opinion that I shouldn't censor myself for fear of alienating readers, though many also understood my fears and thought them justified. At any rate, I'm thinking the whole matter over, and, in the meanwhile, will say that I am very relieved that Hillary Clinton has finally bowed out of the race for the Democratic nomination. Also, I'll point you towards this article on the impending demise of the SUV, Hummer, and other conspicuously obscene gas-guzzlers, as sales plummet and auto manufacturers move towards smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles. Also, note that "Republicans have blocked efforts to bring a global warming bill up for a final Senate vote after a bitter debate over its economic costs and whether it would push gasoline prices higher." The proposed bill "...would cap carbon dioxide coming from power plants and factories with a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 71 percent by mid-century."** On the one hand, these bastards are shortsighted idiots, worrying about gas prices while the planet bakes and melts and sea levels rise. And on the other, even if the bill were to be passed and enforced, given how far global warming has already advanced, and all the other nations that won't enact such legislation, the U.S. lowering emissions to 71% of present levels by 2050 would be much too little, much too late. By then...well, you'll see, if you should live so long. Meanwhile, please check out 350.org.

* Our moving coordinator at United Van Lines called while I was typing this, and we're expecting our belongings to arrive between 4-5 pm this evening.
** Quotations from the Associated Press.
greygirlbeast: (imapact1)
A couple of things I missed in this morning's monster of a post. First, Spooky's father, Dr. Richard Pollnac (Professor of Anthropology and Marine Affairs, University of Rhode Island) will be joining Chip Barber (Environmental Officer, U.S. Agency for International Development) for a live webcast entitled "Troubled Waters: Anticipating, Preventing, and Resolving Conflict Around Fisheries." It's being broadcast from Washington, DC, but you can watch it here (May 15, 2008, 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m., EST). The talk will focus on "...the interactions between demographics, environmental stress, livelihoods, and conflict in the context of fisheries, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia." Spooky's dad has been conducting field studies of fisheries worldwide since the 1960s, from Lake Victoria (Uganda) to Alaska to Vietnam to Thailand to Indonesia to...well, all over.

On a somewhat related note, there's an article at the "ProTraveller" website, "20 Cities, Islands & Countries Threatened By Global Warming." On the one hand, well, it does call attention to particular treasures that are being and will be lost to global warming (the Galapagos Islands, Manhattan, London, Jakarta, Glacier National Park, the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro, etc.). On the other hand, I think that it somehow manages to miss the point. Yes, all these sites are indeed endangered, but that's only because the seas are rising worldwide, meaning all coastlines, everywhere, will experience drastic change during this century with even the lowest estimates of sea-level rise. Every inch of coastline, no exceptions. So, spotlighting these twenty sites, and lines like "You might want to book a trip to see some of them before it's too late!" just comes off a wee bit glib. I mean, species face extinction, hundreds of millions of people will be displaced, economies will tumble, and the very face of the globe will change...and we'll lose all these sweet vacation spots. Er...yeah.

Meanwhile, new figures published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, based on ongoing studies at Hawaii's Mount Loa volcano, indicate that atmospheric CO2 levels have now risen to 387 parts per million, the highest in 650,000 years. To put that in perspective, the earliest-known fossils that can be referred to Homo sapiens sapiens only date back a paltry 195,000 years (Richard Leakey's "Omo remains" from the Omo National Park in Ethiopia). If we go back 650ka, we reach the Middle Pleistocene, a time when Homo sapiens sapiens had yet to evolve (though remains of another subspecies, Homo sapiens idaltu, the first recognizably "modern" humans, and possibly the direct ancestor of Homo sapiens sapiens, have been recovered from strata that old).

350.org.

350

May. 12th, 2008 11:40 pm
greygirlbeast: (imapact1)
My thanks to Barry Graham ([livejournal.com profile] the_urban_monk) for linking to Bill McKibben's story in The Nation reporting the results of a publication on greenhouse gases by Dr. Jim Hansen (NASA) and others, which appeared in Science a few weeks ago. This is a chilling, no-bullshit article, and it needs to be read by everyone living on this planet. Because, as McKibben states again and again, we have reached the point where the luxury of time has all but passed, and, in Dr. Hansen's words, "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." Anyway, please, take a few minutes and read the article. I am not an optimist, and, personally, I think we've passed the point where turning this great industrial beast back from the brink and averting the cataclysm is no longer very likely. But, I'm also wrong a lot. And this is the thing I'd most like to be wrong about, in my whole entire life.

Also, check out 350.org.

Also, speaking of cataclysm, there's some interesting new evidence surrounding the K/T impact event (you know, the "Fifth Extinction," the one that got the non-avian dinosaurs et al.). Specifically, it concerns the discovery of tiny carbon cenospheres in rocks dating from the time of the impact event.
greygirlbeast: (talks to wolves)
We are watching the world melt. We are watching Antarctica melt. In 2002, it was the Larsen B Ice Shelf. On this day, two years ago, I wrote about Iceberg D-16 breaking free of the Fimbul Ice Shelf. This morning, I read about the imminent collapse of the Wilkins Ice Shelf. The world is melting.

And I didn't write anything yesterday.

There have, however, been some truly marvelous suggestions come in from Sirenia Digest readers, in response to my call for suggestions. Sadly, many of them are a bit more like short-story suggestions than vignette suggestions. But still, thank you. One or two have real possibility. If you can make me flinch, I stand impressed.

So, what do you get when John Carpenter's Escape From New York (1981) meets the three Mad Max films (1979-1985)? You get Neil Marshall's Doomsday. As for Mr. Marshall, I really didn't care for Dog Soldiers (2002), but I liked The Descent (2005). Yesterday, Spooky and I made a matinée of his new film, Doomsday, which I liked very, very, very much. I went largely on the recommendations of Byron and [livejournal.com profile] robyn_ma, and I am glad that I did. Doomsday is a genuinely delightful post-apocalyptic romp from start to finish. I laughed. I clapped. I cringed. Marvelous. So many recent films, from Underworld (2003) to Ultraviolet (2006), have tried and miserably failed to do what this film does to perfection. Craig Conway pretty much steals the whole show as the wickedly vengeful Sol, turning in one of the most thoroughly charismatic villains since Clancy Brown's Kurgan in Highlander (1986). Oh, and his female sidekick, Viper (played by stuntwoman Lee-Anne Liebenberg), my gods, what a fine bit of eye candy. Rhona Mitra makes a nice XX-chromo version of Carpenter's Snake Plissken (in fact, she might even give Kurt Russell a run for his money), though she's called Eden Sinclair in the film. Those are the three performances that help make the film such a delight. But we also get serviceable work from Alexander Siddig, Bob Hoskins, and Malcolm McDowell (on autopilot, but, hey, it works). There was just really nothing about the film that wasn't fun. Loved the soundtrack. I think it was [livejournal.com profile] robyn_ma who said that Doomsday does what Planet Terror only tried to do, and, if so, she's right. This is a Grade-A B-movie, a grand, gory, beautiful homage to both Escape from New York and The Road Warrior. It's a blast, and you really ought to try to catch it in the theatre.

Oh, and I read two papers in the new JVP — "Ontogeny of cranial epi-ossifications in Triceratops" and "The skeletal anatomy of the Triassic protorosaur Dinocephalosaurus orientalis Li, from the Middle Triassic of Guizhou Province, southern China."

Every time I think maybe I'm getting the Second Life monkey off my back, I get sucked in deeper. Thank you, Lorne, for the following IM, which was so amusing I have to post it here (a parody of my own complaints following our rp on Wednesday night):

"Quit fondling me, mistress. I have a headache, 'cause I didn't bend space and time the way you're s'pose to, and nearly got sucked into oblivion by the third singularity that formed..."

And apologies to whoever I stole the icon from. It was just too fine for too me to pass up, and, you know, I do talk to wolves. Now. This is where this entry ends, I think.
greygirlbeast: (serafina)
A very groggy sort of morning, though I did manage to get to bed not long after two ayem.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,218 words on the untitled prologue for Joey Lafaye, and it seems to be going well. Spooky likes it. Right now, her opinion is all I have to go on, that and my own instincts. The prologue actually happens shortly after Chapter One, and I'm trying to figure out how to make that clearer. I also made more beanie platypi (I'm calling them beanie, because "ricey" just sounds dumb). So, yes, lots of work yesterday, and working almost always helps. The auctions will begin sometime today.

I also finished reading Jim Ottaviani and Big Time Attic's Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh and the Gilded Age of Paleontology (G.T. Labs, 2005). Quite nice, all in all. I have a long-standing fascination with the "bone war" that waged between Cope and Marsh, and like me, Ottaviani's somewhat fictionalized account comes down more firmly on the side of Cope. I think it's truly very difficult to tell the story of that rivalry and not cast Cope as the "hero" and Marsh as "villian." This is, of course, something of an oversimplification, but there's only so much anyone can do in a 150 pp. graphic novel. Using Charles R. Knight as the tale's fulcrum was an interesting approach. Plus, supporting roles and cameos by the likes of P.T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill Cody, Alexander Graham Bell, and Ulysses S. Grant. It makes a nice introduction to an odd and shameful chapter of American paleontology. I was especially pleased with a bit near the end, where Marsh, at his home in New Haven, is entertaining Chief Red Cloud, and the Sioux leader makes the point that such stories as myths and history are about men, not science.

Not much else really. We had a good walk yesterday. I'm feeling less stiff, but tire far too easily. The weather here continues to be more like May than December. There were a few clouds yesterday, and the sky spat drizzle for about five minutes. I cannot imagine anything, at this point, that's going to save Atlanta from a disastrous water shortage. Spooky made a pot of chili. I spent too much time in Second Life. That sort of an evening (and my thanks to [livejournal.com profile] blu_muse for filling Void full of lead, then taking her to the hospital).

I wanted to write something else this morning, something about how much easier it is for Americans to sympathize with the plight of American screenwriters (because, well, you know, movies make money), as compared to the plight of working American novelists, and how this relates to my generally unfortunate experiences the last two years writing the Beowulf novelization. As in, you think screenwriters have it bad, you ought to hear how the other half lives (but yes, I do fully support the current WGA strike). But I need coffee, and I'm just not up to it right now. Maybe later, like tomorrow. Or next week.
greygirlbeast: (cleav2)
If Spooky's positive reaction can be trusted, I've made a good beginning for Joey Lafaye. I did 1,579 words on Friday, and another 1,601 yesterday. I should be able to finish Chapter One today. Then I set the novel aside and start work on Sirenia Digest #24. For me, Joey Lafaye is still at that barely conceived phase, and so I can't tell if it's going well or not. I can tell that the writing of the Addie Lynch chapters will go quickly, as they are first person. I figure, I'm working towards a 2,000-words-per-day thing with the Addie chapters, while the Joey chapters will likely be the usual 1,000 words per day. The chapters are going to be shorter than my usual chapters, a resolution I made while struggling through the very, very long chapters in Daughter of Hounds. I figure that, in Joey Lafaye, they will average about 5,000-6,000 words each.

According to an acquaintance in England, last night's Culture Show interview, while brief, went over well. She said that it will likely leave "an enigmatic" impression of me, which is nice, and she also said she suspects that lots of people will be worried about why I was so pale. Unless someone puts the bloody thing up on YouTube, I'll likely not see it until I get the DVD of the show that BBC2 is sending me.

And our idiot landlord is out there with a leafblower, deafening me and making a dustbowl of the front yard. On the one hand, it makes me want to shove the thing up his ass and tell him to buy a goddamn rake, but on the other hand, it is drowning out the bleating Xtians.

Yesterday, the postman brought the galleys for the forthcoming mmp edition of Murder of Angels, to be releaed in April 2008, and they're due back in NYC by December 4th, so that's another deadline to add to the pile.

Other than the writing, the past two days have been entertaining and relatively annoyance free. Friday night, we did dinner with Jim (Shimkus) and Jennifer (Lee), at the Vortex, and we talked mostly about The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (Jim's addiction) and Second Life (mine and Spooky's). Last night, Spooky made chili and we watched the marvelous 1982 Terry Hughes and Harold Prince stage production of Stephen Sondhiem's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury.

As Atlanta faces the very real possibility of simply running out of potable water sometime in December, a new United Nations report concludes that "Global warming is 'unequivocal' and carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere commits the world to sea levels rising an average of up to 4.6 feet, the world's top climate experts warned Saturday in their most authoritative report to date." So, buck up, platypus. Sure, the humans have broken a whole planet, but at least they can't say they weren't warned.
greygirlbeast: (dr10-1)
I am, in fact, fairly delighted that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore (the true 43rd American President) will share the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." I haven't much hope, that's a fact, but it's another tiny step in the right direction.

A magnificently frustrating day yesterday. I sat and stared at the screen all day long, trying to find the next story for Sirenia Digest #23, but to no avail. Which should come as no surprise to me, considering I only finished "The Madam of the Narrow Houses" on Thursday. There is a great gulf between what I need to do and what I expect from myself as a writer, on the one hand, and what I can actually manage, on the other. But knowing that really doesn't make me feel any better about the situation. Still, not an entirely unproductive day. I washed my hair. I downloaded the new Radiohead album (superb). I sent a Swedish sf and fantasy magazine a photo for a story they're doing on my work. (which I had no idea was being done until they asked for the photo). I talked to Del Howison at Dark Delicacies in LA, because I still have not done my list for The Horror Book of Lists and wanted to know if anyone had done anything like "Top Ten 'Lovecraftian' Films Not Based (or Only Loosely Based) on Works by H.P. Lovecraft" (they haven't, so I shall). But that was about it.

Byron came by at 6:30, and we had dinner at the Vortex (because Grandma Luke's is doing some silly dinner theatre thing), then watched Little Britain and Kill Bill Vol. 1. Byron is the fine thread that prevents me from being able to declare myself a genuine recluse. Oh, and he brought over the soundtrack to Across the Universe.

So, today I will try — again — to come up with the next new story, and I will read some of Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness, and I will make my list of the "Top Ten 'Lovecraftian' Films Not Based (or Only Loosely Based) on Works by H.P. Lovecraft." And we shall see.

And I'm using my Tenth Doctor icon this morning, even though there was no new Doctor Who last night, just because.
greygirlbeast: (chi2)
So, yes, the list of not-writing things I have to do today is annoyingly long, a string of undertakings united only by the fact that a) they are related to writing, b) are not the actual act of writing, and c) I do not wish to do them. But there you go. Tedium is just another part of the landscape.

Yesterday. Let's see.

Well, I read Volume Two of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and as some had predicted, I liked it even better than Volume One. This one was Mina's, and I couldn't have been more pleased. I adored the Barsoom stuff at the start, and the love scenes between Mina and Quartermain were touching and sexy and funny. In the end, I think, Hyde almost stole the show, and I adored that, too. My only complaint was that the ending seemed just a little rushed, bringing down the Martians and all, and it seems to me the story could have used a couple more issues. But that's a quibble. Now, of course, I have to wait until October for The Back Dossier.

Sometime after dark, we went out into the steamy night, to Videodrome, to rent Tom Tykwer's Perfume: The Story of A Murderer (2006), which I somehow missed during the one week it was playing at Midtown here in Atlanta. Based upon Patrick Süskind's novel, Das Parfum (which Spooky has read, but I haven't), it is surely one of the most sublimely erotic films I have ever seen. Like all the best erotica, it's not for the faint of heart, or those who have no use for fairy tales, or those who get queasy at the sight of blood or filth or maggots. There were echoes of Angela Carter and some of Herzog's early films (I'm thinking Heart of Glass, in particular). When it was over, and I was breathing normally again, I told Spooky that the last film that affected me that viscerally was The Proposition. It's that raw, that unfettered, that fucking perfect. This is a film that truly must be seen, unless visceral isn't your cup of tea. In which case, you may be excused. But damn, what an amazing, amazing film.

The heat is still with us. We shall likely see 100F again today, and I won't even make a guess at the heat index.

A couple of days back someone asked if I am in the "Al Gore camp" as regards mankind being responsible for global warming, for this current period of global warming. And I said that yes, of course I am. I said that, given the preponderance of available data, from such such diverse disciplines as meteorology, paleoclimatology, geology, and oceanography, that there is no longer any other reasonable conclusion to be drawn. But I think there's something more I should have said. And it is this. Regarding global warming the only remaining controversy is political, not scientific. Science has reached a consensus, after decades of research. Sure, you can still find scientists who are skeptical that humanity is the cause, because that's how science works. But there are fewer of them every day. The only reason the public "controversy" persists is because so many people have such a profoundly nonscientific and economic stake in there seeming to be a controversy. Which is to say, it's not something that people want to believe, because the consequences of believing it and accepting responsibility are so dire. But that's not how science works, this matter of believing only that which is convenient and comfortable. At least not when science is working right. Anyway, I felt like my reply was incomplete, and now it is less so.

Okay. There's tedium awaiting me...
greygirlbeast: (redeye)
The kingdoms of Experience
In the precious wind they rot
While paupers change possessions
Each one wishing for what the other has got
And the princess and the prince
Discuss what's real and what is not
It doesn't matter inside the Gates of Eden

The foreign sun, it squints upon
A bed that is never mine
As friends and other strangers
From their fates try to resign
Leaving men wholly, totally free
To do anything they wish to do but die
And there are no trials inside the Gates of Eden


(Bob Dylan, "Gates of Eden")

---

Day Six of the Mordorian Death March. And I suspect my fears that I am being pursued by this [livejournal.com profile] setsuled fiend are not unjustified. Yesterday, my eyes weary from a lack of sleep and my mind filled with the terror of revision and deadlines and with the names of ancient gods and kings, I reached the banks of the Gurthrant, a full day behind schedule. But instead of continuing north to the Thaur Road, I turned west again, approaching the shadow-haunted ruin of Thaurband. I believe scouts may be waiting for me on the road, and hope that by this detour I might lose my pursuers. By early afternoon, I stood just outside what remains of the guard posts outer walls. Since the War and Sauron's defeat, it has become little more than an orc brothel and sty. But there are still ships of men making port here from as far away as Lilithlad. A strange and unsettling sight, watching the grim traffic between men and goblins that goes on in this place, and I almost lost my nerve. But finally, presenting myself as a merchant from Near Harad, I found a captain willing to take me across the Núrnen as far as Caran, from whence I shall then follow the course of the Caranduin northwards, making for the Mitrhram Spur below dread Seregost. But I have been told that there are yet Uruks roaming these fell regions, and I have little hope now that I will ever escape this accursed land to see once more the eyes of my fair Inwë Isilrá. This was always a fool's errand, and but for the need of gold I would have forsaken it weeks ago. With this man [livejournal.com profile] setsuled on my heels, what little hope I might have haboured fades quickly.

Or to speak more plainly, yesterday I spent about seven hours on the Anglo-Saxon-Norse-Icelandic-Old English glossary. Three before the movie, then four more after dinner. I finished at 12:45 a.m., and am pleased to say I have a good draft. It only needs a little revision. 2,245 words, for those who like it put that way. Today will likely be wasted in a waiting game, waiting for phone calls and the outcome of phone calls. Stranded on the listing deck of this rotten ship, as it were. I wonder if this black and stinking sea has been forsaken by even Ulmo of the Vala?

I am told I can buy a horse at Caran. We shall see.

---

I see people posting notorious quotes from the poisoned pen of the late Mr. Falwell. Here's my contribution, something he said about the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

Also, my thanks to [livejournal.com profile] asanityassassin for pointing out this Volatire quote: To the living, one owes respect. To the dead, one owes only truth. Though, for my part, I would say one owes only truth to the living and the dead. One owes only truth, or one owes nothing at all.

Meanwhile, a California-Sized Area of Ice Melts in Antarctica.

Of course, Mr. Falwell had this to say about global warming: The whole global warming thing is created to destroy America's free enterprise system and our economic stability.

— and —

I believe that global warming is a myth. And so, therefore, I have no conscience problems at all and I'm going to buy a Suburban next time.

I wonder exactly how they will ever manage the influx of people wishing to piddle and/or dance on this man's grave?
greygirlbeast: (Default)
The Final Cut. Children of Men. Global warming. Polar bears. My head goes round and round in these circles.

For the most part, Planet Earth seems to be keeping mentions of humanity's impact to a minimum, but the polar-bear sequences stand out in stark contrast, an exception to the rule. This appears to have resulted from the camera men encountering so many drowning and starving polar bears. As global warming leads to shorter Arctic winters, ever-thinner pack ice, and earlier spring thaws, polar bears are quickly losing ground. Some biologists think they may be extinct by the end of the century, these bears, the world's largest extant terrestrial carnivores. Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) share a common ancestor with the brown bear (Ursus arctos spp.), from which they likely diverged in the Middle Pleistocene, becoming a distinct species over the last 100,000 years*. But humans can wipe them out in only two or three centuries.

It would be a mercy, I suppose, in a purely selfish psychological sense, to ascribe to a religion that gives humanity dominance over "lower" lifeforms, that draws a distinction between Homo sapiens sapiens and all other animals, that says there's Man and then there's dumb, soulless nature (lowercase), which was only placed here to provide for Man's needs until some God or gods come/return to give mankind His just reward.

Anyway, because, one way or another, everything is connected, the polar-bear sequences in the "Ice Worlds" episode of Planet Earth last night brought me back around to Children of Men, and that got me thinking about these lines from Pink Floyd's The Final Cut (1983):

A place to stay.
Enough to eat.
Somewhere old heroes shuffle safely down the street.
Where you can speak out loud
About your doubts and fears,
And what's more, no-one ever disappears,
You never hear their standard issue kicking in your door.
You can relax on both sides of the tracks,
And maniacs don't blow holes in bandsmen by remote control.
And everyone has recourse to the law,
And no-one kills the children anymore.
And no-one kills the children anymore.


— Pink Floyd

Today, I'm trying not to think about drowning polar bears, trying to wander elsewhere and elsewhen in my mind, trying to find a story for Sirenia Digest 17.

*Kurten, B. 1964. The evolution of the polar bear, Ursus maritimus (Phipps). Acta Zoologica Fennica 108:1-26.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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