Nonfiction

Aug. 16th, 2017 05:46 pm
rivkat: Rivka as Wonder Woman (Default)
[personal profile] rivkat
Peter Weisz, Puzzle Tov!: Short book of Jewish-themed brainteasers, some of them based on pretty old jokes and some requiring mathematical cleverness. I enjoyed it and was stumped by more than a few, but had the appropriate head-slapping reaction when I read the answers. For a puzzle-loving kid (or even adult) in your life.

Alan Dugatkin & Lyudmila Trut, How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution: Short but fun book about the Soviet/Russian project to breed tame foxes. Wolves and foxes are related enough to make the attempt plausible, but zebras and horses are also closely related enough to breed, and zebras haven’t been successfully domesticated despite numerous attempts, nor have deer except reindeer (even though they live near humans and aren’t usually aggressive towards us, not to mention being important food animals, all of which suggests domestication would be favored if it were feasible). The Soviets picked the least reactive and aggressive foxes and bred them; calmer foxes appeared within three breeding seasons. And slightly greater tameness also shortened their breeding cycle and raised fertility a bit higher, bolstering the theory that in-bred tameness had complex effects on the whole animal. (Unfortunately, these shorter mating cycles didn’t allow multiple fox generations within the same year—although the scientists had sold the project to the Soviet government on the promise of increasing fur production, the shorter cycles meant that the mothers didn’t produce enough milk for their pups, whom they ignored. The scientists hypothesized that a longer transition might have let milk production catch up with increased fertility, as with dogs and cats and pigs and cows.)

Later generations began to exhibit tail-wagging, whining, licking hands, and rolling over for belly rubs—still later, some of the tame foxes’ tails curled, again like dogs. Tamer foxes retained juvenile behaviors longer than wild foxes—wild fox pups are “curious, playful, and relatively carefree when they are very young,” but that changes at around 45 days, when they become more cautious and anxious. After only a decade of breeding, tamer pups stayed curious and playful twice as long.

Tame foxes began gazing into humans’ eyes, which for wild animals is a challenge that can start an attack. Humans themselves, though they weren’t supposed to interact differently with the foxes, couldn’t resist talking to them, petting them, and loving them. When dogs and owners gaze at one another, both see increased oxytocin, leading to increased interactions/petting, “a chemical lovefest.” Adult foxes began to engage in object play—extended play with objects that are known—which wild animals don’t do. (Birds, chimps, and even ants play (with mock fights), but play is usually skill practice.) The tamest fox one year lived with the main researcher for a while, like a dog, and when she returned to her group, she began seeking out caretakers when other foxes were being aggressive toward her. Tame foxes began to demonstrate loyalty to particular caretakers (unlike simply being calm around humans) and jealousy of other foxes who might take their favorites’ attention. They began to bark like guard dogs when strangers appeared. They learned social intelligence: tame fox pups were as smart as dog pups in interpreting human behavior, and smarter than wild fox pups. So selection acting on tameness brought social intelligence along with it, suggesting that there was no need for humans to have bred dogs to be smarter: it could just happen.

The Soviets also tested their work by creating a line of incredibly aggressive foxes using the same selection procedures. Workers were terrified of the new line. When aggressive fox pups were swapped with tame fox pups and raised by mothers from the other line, the pups behaved like their genetic mothers. Genes clearly played vital roles, though tame foxes’ bonds with individual people also showed the role of learned behaviors. The genetic changes worked by changing production of hormones and neurochemicals, like oxytocin. These chemical pathways might help explain why the changes could happen so fast. Tame foxes had higher levels of serotonin than their wild cousins, as dogs have more than wolves.

The evidence supports a theory of destabilizing selection—genes may be similar, but the activity of those genes is very different as between wolves and dogs, chimps and humans. The dramatic changes of domestication seemed to come not primarily from new genetic mutations that were then favored by selection, though that played a role, but from changes in the expression of existing genes that led to very different results. For example, tame foxes started being born with white stars on their foreheads, which happened because the embryonic cells responsible for coloring hair had been delayed in migrating to their places by two days, causing an error in the production of hair color. The expression of the relevant gene was affected by the other changes caused by selecting for tameness. We may even have selected ourselves for tameness using similar mechanisms—we have lower levels of stress hormones in groups than our chimp cousins, we can breed all year round, and our kids stay juvenile longer, like those of other domestic species. And the bonobo may be in the process of doing the same thing, though I’m not sure they’ll have a planet to inherit when their brains get as big as ours.

Speaking of which, the collapse of the Russian economy nearly led to the fox project’s demise. Many foxes starved or nearly starved; others were selected for sale for fur to keep the project alive, a process that also deeply traumatized their caretakers. In 1999, however, a popular science article about the project came out in the US, and they received enough donations to stay afloat, because humans are sentimental. Maybe someday you’ll be able to get your own tame fox pup.

Duncan Green, How Change Happens: Green works in international anti-poverty programs, and argues for a systems approach in which one iteratively works with groups at different levels of the system, leveraging elite points of entry while taking direction from people on the ground. I thought the concept of “positive deviance” was useful—find people in the group you’re trying to help who’ve overcome the problem you’re trying to solve, and see if you can help other people do the same thing, using the positive deviants as the model.

I have officially deleted my LJ

Aug. 16th, 2017 04:28 pm
trelkez: (Inception - Eames)
[personal profile] trelkez
... and it feels weird? I backed up everything and a bunch of communities I was a member of (flashfic comms, everything starting in ds_, some other stuff). I also deleted inactive communities I owned that had no other moderators or maintainers, after carefully archiving them three different ways. I'm going to look into where best to store those archives, but nothing I deleted has been lost outright.

The archival process took several days, in part because I kept getting sidetracked on nostalgia journeys. We were doing some really interesting things on LJ twelve years back and more, ways of organizing fannish communities and doing events that I had mostly forgotten, and I may or may not have spreadsheeted a list of ideas for future use inspired by things from over a decade ago. If there is one constant in fandom, it may be idea recycling.

(Recycling? Upcycling? Are derivative works really just fannish upcycling? Now I'm getting sidetracked again.)

In any case, any links you have to my LJ will no longer work, and I deleted my comments and community posts along with. Apologies if this means you no longer have that comment I left on your fic that time; if I was going to delete myself from LJ, I was going to delete the whole of it. I had something like 3,000 comments made various places over there, as big a footprint as my journal itself. I really debated whether or not to do that, but ... better now, while I still can, than if something happens later that makes me wish I had and I no longer have access, you know?

I owe so much that is significant about my life right now to that platform. Every place I've lived over the past decade has been because of friends I met through LJ. My major life decisions in that span have been shaped by people I met in fannish LJ space. Because of LJ, I met [personal profile] jarrow, who I lived with for several years on the west coast, and [personal profile] sisabet, who I lived with for several more after returning east, and [personal profile] sweetestdrain, who just spent several years living next door to me, trading con to-do lists and vid drafts and coffee and random gossip with me across our shared fence at all hours of the day and night. People I interact with on twitter every day, all the fannish organizing stuff that's sometimes its own full time job, the entirety of my Wednesday night bar trivia team, none of this would have ever happened without LiveJournal.

So thanks for the friends and the cons and the momentous life experiences, LiveJournal. I'm taking them with me ... along with a couple thousand archival files. 

UPDATE: Nazis Fuck Off Rally

Aug. 16th, 2017 10:17 am
rachelmanija: (Default)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Looks like the Nazi scum saw how many people planned to show up to stand up to them in LA, and ran like the cowards they are. Apparently the Venice Nazi rally has been cancelled (but Nazi rallies are still planned in other cities). But it looks like OUR rally is still on, whether the Nazis show up or not.

I will keep updating but if our rally is happening, I'll still be there. I think it's important to show our solidarity and fire. Hey, just talking about showing up chased the Nazis out of LA before they even came - let's give them crowd photos to haunt their dreams and keep them out.

Wednesday Reading

Aug. 16th, 2017 08:44 am
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
I seem to be on a nonfiction binge.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen is a series of essays on various "non-conforming" female public figures from Serena Williams to Caitlyn Jenner. Each essay shows how perceptions of their public personas interact with American cultural norms and the backlash than ensues. I liked that each chapter focused on a different type of non-conformity. It was a fast, entertaining read, though I did bristle at one passing reference to "Harlequin romances," a phrase which appeared to be used as metonymy for the Romance genre. Really, honey?

From the introduction: this book considers the costs and benefits of smoothing one's sharp edges just enough to make it onto the cover of Vanity Fair or into the pages of GQ, multiplexes across America, or the White House--and the implication that unruliness is still largely the provenance of women who are white and straight.

Favorite quote: It's one thing to argue that you belong--it's another thing to actually believe it. As [Jennifer] Weiner's experience makes clear, part of the difficult, essential work of unruliness is shaking the status quo so thoroughly, so persistently, so loudly that everyone--even the very women behind that agitation, many of whom have internalized the understandings they fight so tirelessly against--can see their value within it.

The Supergirls: Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines (Revised and Updated) by Mike Madrid traces the history of female superheroes from the earliest days of comics to the present. The social history is fairly shallow, but if you're looking for an overview of the topic and a host of characters to research in more depth, you could do worse. Caveat: it's full of observations such as Thorn was as tough as they came, but dressed in a green leather halter-top and micro miniskirt with thigh high boots, she looked more like the entertainer at a bachelor party than the terror of the underworld.

I'd been reading Black and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction, edited by Isiah Lavender, off and on since maybe January. I'd originally picked it up for the essay about Octavia Butler's short story "The Evening and the Morning and the Night," but the essay I found most rewarding was "Questing for an Indigenous Future: Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony as Indigenous Science Fiction" by Patrick B. Sharp, as it described and connected some historical events of which I'd been ignorant when I read the novel, and which added quite a bit of depth to my understanding of it.

"Monteiro Lobato's O Presidente Negro (The Black President): Eugenics and the Corporate State in Brazil" by M. Elizabeth Ginway, "Mestizaje and Heterotopia in Ernest Hogan's High Aztech" by Lysa M. Rivera, and "Virtual Reality at the Border of Migration, Race, and Labor" by Matthew Goodwin all brought me new insights and new information. High Aztech was a DNF for me back when it was new, so I'm glad I got to read about it from another perspective.

I'm about midway through the Rosa Parks bio, and hope to finish it before I leave on vacation.
marinarusalka: Wasp from Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (Avengers EMH: Wasp)
[personal profile] marinarusalka
The Boy proposing to me at the top of the Eiffel Tower last night.

I said yes, duh.
selenak: (Kitty Winter)
[personal profile] selenak
RE: ongoing horror show, err, US national and foreign politics: this is yet another reason why I find the entire Hydra in Marvel comics & MCU concept so stupid, not just in the WWII era, where the sheer logistics (or lack of same) break my brain, but also in the present day. Super-secret organization, master assassins, gadget weapons? This just isn't how fascism works. This is how fascism works. It shouts its goals to the winds and gets itself voted into power.

There is not a single member of the Republican party, nor any other voter who either elected the Orange Menace or by not voting enabled it, who can claim this isn't EXACTLY what they voted for or allowed to happen. Because Agent Orange certainly hadn't kept his views a secret. Nor did his minions.

in a house like this

Aug. 15th, 2017 09:05 pm
thistleingrey: (Default)
[personal profile] thistleingrey
*dashes in to c&p*
Ann Shayne, Bowling Avenue: A Novel (2012): extended reflection by single thirty-something protagonist upon recently deceased married, separated, and possibly adulterous older sister in Tennessee, with random anomie. So boring. The tickle of a romance arc goes exactly as expected, as does the community re-engagement of the protag.

Let's try that again. Shayne is half of the knit-blog duo behind Mason and Dixon (the other half, Kay Gardiner, lives in New York City), and their blog is a fine blog, yay. At some point I found Bowling Ave used for a dollar, a discard from King County's library system; when I visited King County for business, I took it along. And then---I assume that Shayne herself would have had little argument---I knitted during the plane-ride home instead of reading further.

Meanwhile, my airplane seat mate was reading (text-only, on her phone) a novel featuring the Voynich MS and Ashmole 782 which stars an investigator named Diana. Ah, the internet provides---part of a trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Diana is a witch, and some guy is a 1500yo vampire. Since they're het and Destined for reasons I didn't bother to look up, I guess it's better that the boy be the vampire, though only because that one character and that other character are relatively recent, whereas there are hundreds, probably thousands of years of evil lamia stories....

Anyone want a novel set in a sanitized version of pre-current-crush Nashville? (Between 2012 and a year or two ago, a bunch of artistic folk decided to move there or set up shop there. Now it's home to Fringe Association, Elizabeth Suzann, and so on and so forth.) I'll ship it for the cost of US postage. I doubt you'd want overseas postage, since as an ex-library copy it has a weighty plastic cover.
rachelmanija: (Heroes: support WGA)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
The "alt-right," aka LITERAL NAZIS like the ones who murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, is planning a protest in Los Angeles this Saturday. Here's what I found when I went looking for a counter-protest. I will be there.

Obviously, this could be dangerous. But I am not letting LITERAL NAZIS march in my city unopposed. Besides, it could be a great opportunity:



Please let me know if you're going, so we can rideshare or try to meet up or something.

Defend Diversity: Fight to Protect Diversity Policies in the Workplace!!

Public · Hosted by Defend Movement and Build the Peoples' Democratic Workers' Party

Saturday at 12 PM - 3:30 PM

340 Main St, Venice, California 90291

Paris update

Aug. 15th, 2017 06:30 am
marinarusalka: (Default)
[personal profile] marinarusalka
So British Airways has decided to add some extra stress to our Paris trip by losing The Boy's luggage for three freakin' days. Every day they kept saying, "Oh, we found your bag, it's out for delivery to your hotel!" and then no delivery would happen. Until if finally did happen -- at midnight last night. Sigh.

Despite this, we've gotten some good sightseeing in before I had to start attending the conference. Sunday we successfully navigated the subway and train system and got ourselves to Versailles. In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea to go on a weekend, as the crowds were beyond insane. The line to get into the main palace was three hours long, which we weren't willing to do, so we did the gardens and the smaller Trianon palaces. There's Grand Trianon, a pink marble palace that Lois XIV built as a private place to have nooky with his mistress, and Petit Trianon, which was Marie Antoinette's idea of a quaint country cottage. Both are very pretty and charming, and give a pretty good idea of why the French Revolution happened.

Yesterday we did the Arc de Triomphe, which required climbing a ridiculous number of steps (284!) to get to the top but was totally worth it for the view. Then we followed up with a visit to Notre Dame.

Here, have some pictures.

Grand Trianon:


Arc de Triomphe:


Eiffel Tower:


Notre Dame:


March Tomorrow Night

Aug. 15th, 2017 08:55 am
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
There's a "Philly is Charlottesville" march in Philadelphia tomorrow night, starting at Rodeph Shalom and ending up at Arch Street Methodist. I am summoning energy to go and be counted. Many events (Tuesdays with Toomey, etc.) have been during work hours, so I haven't been able to attend. This one, I can do.

I might not do a sign. All I can think to paint on one is Fuck Off, Fascists or perhaps Die Nazis Die, which while expressive of my sentiments, are probably not what the organizers are hoping for with this endeavor. High road, high road, high road....

Bruce Campbell is going to be at Barnes and Noble tomorrow night, too, but I am sure he would approve of me missing his visit to punch some Nazis march peacefully on behalf of tolerance.

Gym tonight. That will be a good thing.

Last night I ate a delicious cupcake [personal profile] drinkingcocoa brought me from Georgetown, and cuddled Ms. 9 until she could be cuddled no more and had to climb all over the living room. Ms. 13 and I measured our respective heights. She still has a small fraction to go before she's as tall as me.

Orphan Black 5.10

Aug. 15th, 2017 12:59 pm
selenak: (Allison by Spankulert)
[personal profile] selenak
In which we get a LotR or Babylon 5 type of ending, and it's lovely.

Read more... )

Gratitudes

Aug. 14th, 2017 08:32 pm
kass: glasses of pink wine (rose)
[personal profile] kass
1. Sitting on my mirpesset listening to a chorus of late-summer crickets and cicadas.

2. Watching the sky change colors. Right now the far horizon has a tinge of pale orange, and then it's a gorgeous ombre of light blue to French blue to darker blue overhead.

3. Glass of rosé.

4. The experiment in Kid Trimming His Own Fingernails was a success. No more fighting over fingernails!

5. This morning on a phone call with [personal profile] samtheeagle we wound up in a Muppets Singing High Holiday Liturgy place and I laughed until there were tears in my eyes. Wow, I needed that. :-)

Weekend Weariness

Aug. 14th, 2017 09:53 am
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
I did squats, bench press, and row with barbell on Friday night, followed by intervals on the treadmill. The next day I was sore, but still restless, so after I did laundry, I went out shopping, with several things on my mental list. I had dinner with a friend, and on my walk home could really feel all the walking/post-workout soreness in my calves in particular.

Sunday, I did more laundry, dug out my big suitcase that I hadn't used in ages, and did most of my vacation packing. It is amazing how much one can fit into a big suitcase; normally I'm very, very disciplined about packing, and use those bags that suck the air out of piles of clothing, but that wasn't necessary; this trip will be by car rather than airplane. I'm not sure if we'll be able to do laundry that week, and I'd rather bring extra clothes and have space to pack dirty clothes loosely. Plus, there's room for print books! I put some comics in already.

I spent almost the entire weekend offline to spare myself from rage and sorrow as much as possible, which worked to some degree. I was depressed and tired, but found lots of distractions from the news.
selenak: (Twelve and Clara)
[personal profile] selenak
I am looking forward to Jodi Whittaker’s Doctor, but last week it hit me really badly how much I’m going to miss Peter Capaldi, and I promptly started a Capaldi era rewatch, and fell in love with the Twelfth Doctor and Clara (and Missy, and (almost) all the storylines and themes) all over again. This was when Moffat-DW really clicked for me. I like the Eleventh Doctor, I like Amy, Rory, and of course River, but individual episodes aside, I was never in love during that particular era. And that’s okay. With a canon spanning more than 50 years, you really don’t have to be all the time. But it’s really great when it happens.

Madmen and -women in boxes )

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