- io9 has an interesting article looking at how the success of Disney's film Moana is driving Maori pride in New Zealand.
- New Now Next lists eight of the top LGBTQ bookstores of North America and Europe, including Toronto's Glad Day.
- 24 hours on an artificial beach, sheltered under a hanger deep in east Germany, turns out to be quite fulfilling. VICE
- Climate change is making the famous tea of Darjeeling much more difficult to come by. VICE reports.
- Wired notes Fitbits are useful tracking devices for scientists engaged in studies, too. (I always wear mine.)
- I entirely approve of this new Niagara College program. Why not legalize and professionalize cannabis agriculture?
- This VICE interview with bringing the Truvada needed for inexpensive PrEP across the border into Canada is of note.
- A new study suggests that Planet Nine, if it exists, was likely not captured by the young sun but formed here. Universe Today reports.
- While I get why the TTC would promote its top ranking on its vehicles, the optics of significant cost for this promotion are terrible.
- Bay and Bloor, Avenue Road and Bloor, Bay and King--these are the top intersections for condo resellers.
- I get why Bombardier workers would want to support their employer versus Bombardier with a brief strike, and be justified in doing so. Just--well, optics.
- Can the Centreville carousel be kept in Toronto? I suppose it would be nice if they could get the funding.
My box of author's copies arrived. Front looks like this, more or less -- Baen's shiny foil does not scan well.
The back looks like this:
They somehow got the first draft of the cover copy onto this one, and not the final one as it appears on the hardcover jacket flap. That last line was not supposed to be, misleadingly, All About Miles, but rather to put the focus on the book's actual protagonists and plot, and read, "...the impact of galactic technology on the range of the possible changes all the old rules, and Oliver and Cordelia must work together to reconcile the past, the present, and the future."
Ah, well. Most readers (who bother to read the back at all) will figure it out, I expect. Those that don't will be no more confused than usual.
posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on September, 20
Archeology and Newspapers
It was the newspapers that caused the dream!
I recalled that the day before, I'd read the Guardian's September 12th's report of a Viking era grave located in Birken, Sweden, which held the remains of a woman, a mare and a stallion, and her weapons.
From the Guardian:
. . . . not just any warrior, but a senior one: she was buried alongside a sword, an axe, a spear, armour-piercing arrows, a battle knife, two shields and two horses. Gaming pieces – perhaps from hnefatafl, a sort of precursor to chess – suggest the female warrior from grave Bj581 was a battle strategist.
Since the Guardian became accessible online, it seems to periodically provide coverage of history's powerful women, many of whom, if not most, have been written out of history. (Not a coincidennce one thinks that the Guardian provides a lot of column space to women historians and writers such as Mary Beard -- who are reliably excoriated by the male commentators.) Thus the Guardian followed up the Birken grave and its contents with this story on Friday, September15th:
How the Female Viking Warrior Was Written Out Of History -- "What Bj 581, the ‘female Viking warrior’ tells us about assumed gender roles in archaeological inquiry"
Then, just two days ago:
The recent discovery of female bones in a Viking warrior grave is yet another indication that we’ve only scratched the surface of female history -- "How Many More Warrior Women Are Missing from the History Books?"
Predictably, all three stories were illustrated with images from the History channel's thoroughly non-historical scripted historical drama, Vikings's resident female warrior, Legartha.*
Equally predictable, were the plethora of comments in response to these Guardian stories, so many of which were jeers at the very idea. This way the readers learns that the only reason there were the bones of a woman in a warrior's burial site is because 1) the archeologists lied, don't know what they doing, are mistaken, she's really male; 2) she was the wife of a warrior who is a man, who died somewhere else and thus couldn't be interred in his own grave, or who was removed later; 3) animals put some woman's bones there.
Television's Role in the Warrior Queen Dream
Surely television via netflix streaming also played a role provoking that dream. I am continuing to watch the Turkish historical 13th epic of Diriliş: Ertuğrul, the founding ancestor of the Ottoman Turkish empire. As these series are, it's very long, nearly 80 episodes -- I'm barely half way through, though I began watching this before summer. But by now we're seeing the Kayi's tribe's women training for a battle - assault they are sure will be coming from the Aleppo region's reigning sultan. Aykiz, is in charge of their training. Trained from birth in the tribe's martial arts, who is the beloved of one of the tribe's most heroic and skilled warriors (alps, they are called), she's the daughter of the blacksmith, who manufactures the tribe's weapons. What Aykriz can do with a bow and sword, whether from the ground or riding a horse at full gallop are some thrilling scenes.
Though the history of Diriliş: Ertuğrul is probably as much fiction as the Icelandic sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok from where Vikings received its inspiration, the details of these nomads' tribal life, clothing and relationships, are more than true to historic life. There are at least as many women characters as male, and there is no question among either the characters themselves or how they are portrayed in the series that they are equally important and significant to the action, whether dramatic or historic.
Additionally, the relationships among the humans and their horses is unlike anything I've ever seen in such productions no matter what country they are depicting. These horses interact with the people who are their 'owners' and 'riders.' Even when they are functioning as scene dressing they pay attention to the action that is centered. There is prolonged, painful scene in which one of the Heroes, Torgut, beaten and tortured by the order of the Templars' Grand Masters, has a horse tethered in the background. This horse does not belong to Torgut, but during the entire scene the horse's head and neck are turned toward the action, its ears are pricked toward the action. And there was hay on the ground at the horse's feet. Whether this is planned or not, nothing else could so honestly tell the viewer that these are above all, people of the horse.
Books - History
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire is a 2010 book by Jack Weatherford, which I just finished, ahem, bookends brilliantly with Diriliş: Ertuğrul. Not least among the reasons this is so, is that it too begins in the 13th century, the same as in which Diriliş: Ertuğrul is located. Weatherford reads and writes Mongolian, and has spent a great deal of time living in Mongolia. The story of warrior queen, Mandukhai, the woman who restored Genghis Khan's ideals for the Mongols, is enthralling -- and she's not the only one. It also show how easily and quickly such women, even when their rule is the law of the land, can be overthrown and utterly erased from the historical record -- at least the official record. This includes literally tearing the accounts of their lives out of the official record.
Among the many elements of his book that I appreciated is how much of the cultural practices, from religious to jewelry and clothing of these tribes who populated such a vast region of central Asia for millennia, are found all across eras and regions -- from the Hittites and Scythians, China (the interactions between the kingdoms that became China are ancient, and the Mongols supposedly ruled a large part for a while), to the Tartars of Russia and the tribes that became the Ottomans. One can see it most particularly in the headdresses of the women. Why these are they way they are, Weatherman explains. These connections and continuities I've always felt, but never knew how or why. Nomadic pressures and conquest were the driving forces for all of it -- and smart, fighting and ruling women were always integral.
Weatherford's The Secret History is the source for the counterpart novels in recent days with Mongol settings and characters, which includes The Tiger's Daughter (which is the title for one of the sections in scholar Weatherford's history) and even parts of Guy Gavriel Kay's China duology, Under Heaven and River of Stars and even for the Netflix original two seasons of Marco Polo. This series had more than one warrior woman based on historical figure in Secret History, which, judging by their sneers of disbelief and dislike of these characters on discussion forum I visit, male viewers hated.
The first biography of 16th - 17th century African warrior queen, Njinga of Angola,by our friend Prof. Linda Heywood, has just been published by Harvard University Press, It's hard to describe how thrilling it is to read a book bout such a fierce and successful woman, faced with such terrible odds, written by another fierce and successful woman -- whom I actually know! Moreover, this is set in the same era as the last sections of Weatherford's history of the Mongol Queens, which feature the brilliant fighting woman, general and ruler, Mandukhai. (Let us not forget another great, powerful and successful ruler of the era, Queen Elizabeth!)
Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro Creole Consciousness 1570 - 1640 (2003) by Herman L. Bennett is helping prepare for the October Veracruz American Slave Coast Jazz Festival. As one can see from the dates covered, this is a pair with Njinga of Angola.
These colonial Mexican Africans were brought as slaves from Njinga's region by her enemies, the Portuguese. This is also the period of the Iberian Union, the peak of Spain's power, when Spain and Portugal were under the same crown.
The other two new books we have here are Hillary's What Happened (there are more than one way that a woman can be a warrior queen) and Le Carré's Legacy of Spies (more fictionalized history).
Reading and watching are so rich these days, no wonder I am having action adventure epic dreams of Warrior Queens.
* Alas, after about two and a half seasons Vikings devolved into preposterosity, lacking even a pretense of plot plausibility, characters behaving like idiots for not reason, and a distinct lack of Lagertha, showing that men (meaning in this instance the guy who show runner, writer and director) have no idea what to do with a female character who can take care of herself.
- Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait notes the continuing maps and naming of the Pluto system.
- Centauri Dreams considers one method to detect photosynthesis on Earth-like worlds of red dwarf stars.
- D-Brief notes the discovery of Octlantis, a permanent community of octopi located off the coast of Australia.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes Earth-like world can co-exist with a Jovian in a circumstellar habitable zone.
- Hornet Stories notes that Morrissey is now in Twitter. (This will not go well.
- Language Log notes the kanji tattoo of one American neo-Nazi.
- The LRB Blog notes how the English town of Tewksbury is still recovering from massive flooding a decade later.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the improbable life of Barry Sadler, he of "The Ballad of the Green Berets".
- The Map Room Blog shares this terrifying map examining the rain footprint of Hurricane Irma.
- Spacing reviews a fascinating dual biography of architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson.
- Window on Eurasia notes an call to restore to maps the old Chinese name for former Chinese Tuva, Uryankhai.
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.4
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- Naomi Klein argues that this summer, of wildfires and disasters, marks an environmental turning point.
- National Geographic shares stunning video of defrosting Tibetan soil flowing.
- This dumping of illegally harvested lobsters as garbage on land in Nova Scotia is a terrible waste. CBC reports.
- Can we limit urban flooding only if we force landowners to contribute to the costs of stormwater infrastructure? MacLean's makes the case.
- Hamilton's Christ Church is striving for continued viability, in part through selling off vacant land for condos. Global News reports.
- Edmonton's Accidental Beach, a byproduct of construction berms on the North Saskatchewan River, has gone viral. Global News reports.
- Meagan Campbell of MacLean's looks at how the refugee crisis did, and did not, effect the garlic festival of border city Cornwall.
- The successful integration of a Syrian refugee family of chocolatiers in the Nova Scotia town of Antigonish is nice. The Toronto Star carries the story.
- Visits to food banks in Toronto have returned to Great Recession levels, Global News notes.
- Torontoist notes that the reluctance to build sidewalks in lower-density areas has serious negative consequences.
- The photos blogTO shares of some Toronto intersections a century ago are remarkable. (There was nothing at many.)
- Jennifer Pagliaro states the obvious in the Toronto Star: mass transit planning is driven by short-term political convenience, not long-term planning.
- Anthrodendum offers resources for understanding race in the US post-Charlottesville.
- D-Brief notes that exoplanet WASP-12b is a hot Jupiter that is both super-hot and pitch-black.
- The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining various models of ice-covered worlds and their oceans' habitability.
- The Everyday Sociology Blog takes a look at the value placed by society on different methods of transport.
- Far Outliers looks at how Chinese migrants were recruited in the 19th century.
- Hornet Stories notes that the authorship of famously bad fanfic, "My Immortal", has been claimed, by one Rose Christo.
- Marginal Revolution notes one explanation for why men are not earning more. (Bad beginnings matter.)
- Peter Watts has it with facile (and statistically ill-grounded) rhetoric about punching Nazis.
- At the NYR Daily, Masha Gessen is worried by signs of degeneration in the American body politic.
- Livejournal's pollotenchegg maps the strength of Ukrainian political divisions in 2006 and 2010.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer is afraid what AI-enabled propaganda might do to American democracy in the foreseeable future.
- Roads and Kingdoms notes an enjoyable bagel breakfast at Pondichéry's Auroville Café.
- Drew Rowsome celebrates the introduction of ultra-low-cost carriers for flyers in Canada.
- Strange Company notes the 19th century haunting of an English mill.
- Window on Eurasia notes that Crimean Tatars, and Muslims in Crimea, are facing more repression.
For 85 years, Pluto was pretty much a featureless dot.
Oh sure, some observations, particularly using Hubble, mapped out very broad regions, not much more than brighter and dimmer blotches*. But when the New Horizons space probe flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, suddenly the tiny dot became a world.
New Horizons revealed plains and canyons, craters and mountains, and a passel of other weird features, too. Keeping them all straight as they were rapidly discovered was hard, so the planetary scientists on the New Horizons team gave them nicknames, with a theme of using the names of explorers, people related to the discovery and observation of Pluto, and different mythologies of the underworld (in keeping with the name Pluto itself). These were unofficial, and, in fact, it became a little bit of a joke during the flyby press conferences for scientists to mention that, since they had to say it every time.
But now, after more than two years, 14 of those names have become official. The New Horizons team proposed these names to the International Astronomical Union, the keepers of official cosmic names (among other duties), who mulled them over and have now approved them.
Some of the names include Tombaugh Regio, Pluto’s “heart,” a huge bright region nearly 1600 km across. It’s named after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930. The left “lobe” of the heart is Sputnik Planitia, named after the Sputnik satellite, the first satellite ever launched into orbit by humans.
There’s Hillary Montes and Tenzing Montes, mountains named after the first two people known to have climbed to the very peak of Mount Everest and returned back down safely. There are other features named after underworld mythologies of the Inuit (Adlivun Cavus), Greek (Tartarus Dorsa), medieval Norwegians (Sleipnir Fossa), and aboriginal Australians (Djanggawul Fossae), which is very cool, and even two spacecraft that explored the solar system (Voyager Terra and Hayabusa Terra).
I think my favorite of them all is Burney Crater, named after Venetia Burney. After Tombaugh discovered this new world in 1930, Burney — 11 at the time — suggested calling it Pluto. Her father sent a note to astronomers, who liked it (especially since the first two letters of Pluto, PL, were the initials of Percival Lowell, the eccentric astronomer who funded the search for a new planet that led to Tombaugh’s discovery).
It’s nice that the IAU decided to make these 14 names official. I don’t envy their next task: There are hundreds of features on Pluto that still need designations. The New Horizons team plans on proposing many more (many of which were also named by the public, incidentally, which is pretty nifty). I hope they get approved, too.
But I do have another hope. Charon, Pluto’s oversized moon, was also mapped in detail, and the features there were given somewhat more, um, fanciful names. So we have the craters Organa and Skywalker. They sit not too far from the crater Vader, which is near Ripley Crater (which itself is split by the Nostromo Chasma). There’re also the craters Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and Sulu; chasms (still unofficially, mind you) named Serenity and Tardis; a highland named Oz; and an area called Gallifrey (I'll note, back on Pluto, there's also Cthulhu Regio). And, of course, there’s also the large, dark, reddish region around Charon’s north pole called Mordor Macula.
If they ever do, it may still take some time for the IAU to make these official, and that’s totally understandable. After all …
… one does not simply walk into naming Mordor Macula.
* Not to downplay those observations; they were cutting-edge for the time, and very difficult to obtain. They wound up mapping to real features, too, indicating they were accurate.4