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[Jay Lake memorial link salad]

Human eye spots single photons. Human eyes are capable of detecting a single photon — the tiniest possible speck of light — new research suggests. The result, published July 19 in Nature Communications, may settle the debate on the ultimate limit of the sensitivity of the human visual system, a puzzle scientists have pondered for decades. Scientists are now anticipating possibilities for using the human eye to test quantum mechanics with single photons.

M13: A Great Globular Cluster of Stars . M13 is a colossal home to over 100,000 stars, spans over 150 light years across, lies over 20,000 light years distant, and is over 12 billion years old.

A Crazy New Species of Beaked Whale Has Been Discovered in the Pacific. On Tuesday, a team of scientists announced the discovery of a brand new species of beaked whale. The findings, published in the journal Marine Mammal Science, detail the lengthy process of finding and identifying samples from 178 beaked whales in and around the Pacific Rim. Previously, there were only two known species belonging to the genus Berardius—Baird’s and Arnoux’s beaked whales—but these new findings indicate there’s another species hanging out in the North Pacific.

How Much You Need to Exercise to Make Up For Sitting All Day. There’s been a lot of finger-wagging of late about the health risks associated with sitting at a desk all day, or binge-watching our favorite TV shows. Now couch potatoes can rejoice because a new study has found that just an hour of moderate activity a day wipes out all the negative impacts of sedentary behavior—contrary to some prior studies claiming exercise didn’t help much at all.

Badass New Dragon Ants Remind Us Nature Is Cooler Than Fantasy. Writing today in PLOS One, a team of entomologists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology has just described two new species of Pheidole, the most diverse ant genus on Earth. The distinctive feature of the newcomers is a crop of fierce-looking spines jutting out of their dorsal plates. The scientists couldn’t help but notice how this spiky armor afforded their specimens a dragon-like appearance, which is why they judiciously tossed out traditional Latin naming conventions in favor of Pheidole viserion and Pheidole drogon.

Distinctions blur between wolf species. Wolves are having something of an identity crisis. Gray wolves and coyotes might be the only pure wild canine species in North America, a new genetic analysis suggests. Other wolves — like red wolves and eastern wolves — appear to be blends of gray wolf and coyote ancestry instead of their own distinct lineages. Red wolves contain about 75 percent coyote genes and 25 percent wolf genes, an international team of scientists reports online July 27 in Science Advances. Eastern wolves have about 25 to 50 percent coyote ancestry.

Big-footed dinosaur
. A tourist guide working in Bolivia has stumbled upon an enormous dinosaur footprint measuring nearly four feet wide. Experts say it’s one of the largest prints ever found of a carnivorous dinosaur, and a record for South America.

Nose bacteria fight Staph, even MRSA strains. The human nose harbors not only a deadly enemy — Staphylococcus aureus — but also its natural foe. Scientists have now isolated a compound from that foe that might combat MRSA, the methicillin-resistant strain of S. aureus. “We didn’t expect to find this. We were just trying to understand the ecology of the nose to understand how S. aureus causes problems,” bacteriologist Andreas Peschel of the University of Tübingen in Germany said at a news briefing July 26 during the EuroScience Open Forum. Investigating the intense interspecies competition in the nose — where microbes fight for space and access to scant sugars and amino acids — might offer a fertile alternative to searching for new drug candidates in soil microbes.

Meme -- 1969

Stole this from sartorias, who labeled it "high school." But I graduated from Reed's Fine College in 1968, so here's what my life looked like the next year.

1. Did you know your spouse? Married hubby #1 in '69. Both of us were way too young to realize we were exactly the wrong people for one another.

2. Did you car pool to school? I lived in the dorms in college, but drove to grad school. High school, I mostly walked.

3. What kind of car did you have? After college, a Saab, one of those old 2-stroke engines where you added oil directly to the gas. Probably polluted like crazy.

4. What kind of car do you have now? Rather battered 2004 Prius and not-so-battered 2002 Mazda Van for hauling dog and garden stuff.

5. It's Friday night...where were you? Folk dancing, where else?

6. What kind of job did you have in high school? Babysitting, helping out in my father's print shop. In college I worked in the Bio stockroom, taught folk dancing, and was a dorm advisor. In grad school I typed up dictation for a psychologist.

7. What kind of job do you have now? Writer, and I'll be working at it forever.

8. Were you a party animal? You have got to be kidding.

9. Were you a cheerleader? See above.

10. Were you considered a jock? See above.

11. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? See above.

13. Did you get suspended or expelled? Not even close (high school).

14. Can you sing the fight song? "Epistemology Forever"? Sure can do!

15. Who was/were your favorite high school teacher? College favorite was Lloyd J. Reynolds, calligrapher extraordinaire, who pushed us to see the white spaces inside the letters and think outside the box.

16. Where did you sit for lunch? With a gaggle of similarly geek-minded friends in college. Grad school varied.

17. What was your school mascot? College - gryphon. We had a high school mascot?

18. If you could go back and do it again, would you? High school, never. College I'd love to re-do, but not at my age. Grad school ditto.

19. Did you have fun at Prom? Nobody asked me, either school. Now I look at that and say, Yikes what losers to not see the spectacular person I am. But maybe I wasn't back then.

20. Do you still talk to the person you went to Prom with? see above.

21. Are you planning on going to your next reunion? Just went to college reunion. May go back when it's our 50th. Went to 50th high school and was amazed how many people remembered me (see #19) (and gloated at how good I look).

22. Are you still in contact with people from school? High school, recently got back in touch. I met my best friend in college, but she died in 2013, so I'm much less in touch. My life has moved on.

23. What are/were your school's colors? No idea, either one. I have better things to clog my memory up with!


In 1776, whether you were declaring America independent from the crown or swearing your loyalty to King George III, your pronunciation would have been much the same. At that time, American and British accents hadn't yet diverged. What's surprising, though, is that Hollywood costume dramas get it all wrong: The Patriots and the Redcoats spoke with accents that were much closer to the contemporary American accent than to the Queen's English.

It is the standard British accent that has drastically changed in the past two centuries, while the typical American accent has changed only subtly.

Why Do Americans and Brits Have Different Accents?
What if science was presented with the same dramatic flair as a thriller movie trailer? I'll be following this one closely!

Brexit thoughts

Dear friends in the U.K., I send you condolences and hugs. Prompted by Cliff Winnig, here is a quote from one of your many great writers:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”


Orlando Heavy on My Heart

“Where were you when you heard?” In my life, that question has referred to so many terrible events. The earliest one I remember was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I was in high school and was old enough to have vivid memories of walking down the corridor, not yet knowing what had happened but knowing it was something dreadful, the hushed voices, and most of all, the expression on the face of my favorite teacher as he told us the news. I recalled this while driving my younger daughter to her own high school and turning on the radio to hear, “The second tower is down!” To each generation, I thought. Columbine, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, the Oklahoma City bombing, the list goes on.

My older daughter and I were returning from our college reunion when we stopped for lunch and I glanced at the newspaper rack and saw the news about the Orlando shooting. That same sense of surreal horror swept over me. Both of us had the thought that the world, our world anyway, would never be the same. In trying to grapple with events like this one or the others mentioned above, I find myself looking for events in my own life. That’s a thing we primates do, we put things into personal context.

I am intimately familiar with my own journey through the brutal murder of my mother, but that is not a good analogy. Her death, as devastating as it was, was an individual, one-on-one act of violence. Nobody blamed her or in any way implied she was somehow responsible for what happened to her. Closer emotionally are the stories my father used to tell of his boyhood in a small village in the Ukraine just after the Russian Revolution, when Cossacks would ride into town, line up all the Jewish boys, and shoot them. Today we find such acts heinous; nobody says the Jews deserved what they got at Auschwitz.

Yet that is exactly what some public figures have been saying about the young men and women who were having a night of dancing off the stress of their lives at Pulse. That is one of the ways in which this shooting stands apart from the others.

I found that as the days roll past, my distress at the Orlando shooting increases rather than diminishing. I keep having the thought, Except for not knowing many folks who go to night clubs, that could have been someone I love. That same daughter I was traveling with is part of the LGBT community. So are my other daughter and her wife. So is my sister and her partner. So are so many people I love.

That could have been my child or my sister or my brother or my best friend. That could have been me.

During this time I had been reading David Gerrold’s gritty, powerful thirteen fourteen fifteen o’clock. I take it in nibbles because it’s dense and emotionally intense. The following passage stuck with me, bringing to mind a poignant image of the people enjoying an evening dancing at Pulse:

“-- in that frozen moment, in that separate space, there was room to take my life out, hold it in my hands, hold I up to the light and examine it, look for secret meanings, and try to see the soul inside, I discovered, I’m not gay, I’m not straight either, not bi and not tri, not anything, just human, quietly desperate and alone in my head, not caring about the form or shape or position, not worrying about top or bottom, simply starving for that rare moment of completion, that brief bright flash of connection that tells me that I’m not the only hurting hungry thing in this universe, even if it’s just a splash of illusion in the night”

A friend who identifies as bisexual talked to me with great earnestness and trouble in her voice about how the Orlando shooting isn’t only about homophobia or gun control or Islamophobia or mental illness. I respect her point that what happened is a complex issue with no simple answers. To focus on only one is to engage in the same sort of single-issue black and white simplification that underlies all these issues.

At the same time, I am leery of straight-washing what happened. Of skimming over how hard it is every day for some of our loved ones to get through their lives, struggling to figure out who they are and live their lives with that integrity, without daily risking those lives. As Christina Cauterucci wrote in Slate.com:

“There’s also another set of consequences that are specific to this crime, which targeted Latinos and Latinas in a bar that catered to LGBTQ patrons. When a man with an assault rifle mows down dozens of people in a school or movie theater, there is little reason for public accounts to speculate about the victims’ sexual or gender identities. The victims and survivors at Pulse, whether they identified as queer or not, have been seemingly outed to their families and communities. Many of the people Mateen killed were so, so young—some in their early 20s, barely old enough to drink; one just 18 years old. Maybe they hadn’t had the chance to come out to their families and friends yet. Maybe they hadn’t even processed it for themselves.”

She calls out “…the climate of hate, exclusion, and indifference to queer suffering fomented by political and religious leaders who champion anti-gay language, anti-trans legislation, and rigid gender boundaries...”

Maybe the crime is not just the shooting and the loss of precious, irreplaceable human lives. Maybe it’s bigger than that, the way we allow anyone to target them beforehand or afterward, and how it is in any way permissible to pry into their private lives and then condemn them. Maybe the Orlando tragedy will keep going on until each and every one of us says,

That could have been my child or my sister or my brother or my best friend. That could have been me.

THUNDERLORD cover reveal

Here's the cover for Thunderlord, to be released from DAW in August. The art is by the wonderful Matt Stawicki, who did the paintings for The Children of Kings and The Seven-Petaled Shield trilogy. (And yes, the resonances with Stormqueen! are deliberate -- this is a sequel.)

You can pre-order it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble in ebook and hardcover formats.

Story in The Shadow Conspiracy III

My novelette, "Among Friends," (featuring Quakers, the Underground Railroad, and a slave-catching automaton) will appear in The Shadow Conspiracy III (edited by Phyllis Irene Radford and Brenda W. Clough, with this gorgeous cover by Dave Smeds). ("Among Friends" previously appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2013). The book will be available June 28 in print and various ebook formats.

Here's the back cover copy:

In the world of the Shadow Conspiracy where the human soul has proven to be measurable and transferable to an automaton, the question arises: is the robot a person? The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 freed all the slaves in the states in rebellion against the Federal Government. What if that same document freed ensouled automata as well?

This third volume of the Shadow Conspiracy has seven stories that examine the question of humanity. We take you from an observation hot air balloon above the siege of Vicksburg to the soul-grinding Battle of the Crater, from simple farm folk who call themselves Friends, to the mysticism of Marie Laveau and Voudon. Our award winning authors ask the age-old question of what makes us human, what is the nature of slavery, and who deserves freedom? Only you can provide the answers.

The Return of the Walkabout Cat

When last we left our story, our indoor-only cat Shakir had escaped and was so freaked out, he no longer recognized us. After spotting him several times in our yard, we decided to try to trap him. To this end, we borrowed a raccoon-sized humane trap and set it out with a dish of extra-palatable food nearby. Each night, the food was eaten. We braced the trap open and placed the food halfway inside. Finally we set the trap with the food all the way inside, so that the cat would trigger the trap.

And the next morning the food was untouched. The most likely reason was that earlier in the day, I had been sitting on the porch, enjoying the beautiful weather and view of our garden as I wrote. In the process, I also moved several cardboard boxes at the far end of the porch. Apparently, Shakir found these changes intolerably threatening.

The next night, we set the food outside the trap, thinking that by backtracking and making the setup less threatening we could tempt him. For the second night in a row, the meal was not eaten. At this point, we began to wonder if Shakir had somehow gotten out of the yard. Our chain-link fence is 6 feet high and there aren't many gaps underneath. It would be possible for a determined mountain lion to scale the fence, and also for a determined dog (or cat) to dig underneath it, although we saw no evidence either had happened.

I watched myself begin to grieve again., only this time with more acceptance. It had been two weeks since we lost our cat, and that is a long time, especially in these mountains.

Read more...Collapse )My husband, however, did not give up. The next night, he set the food down by the place we thought the cat was hiding. And presto! the next morning, the plate was licked clean. We had no way of knowing who had eaten it, whether it was our cat, a raccoon or skunk, or a neighbor’s cat that had somehow gotten into the yard. We continued to leave out food and to move it closer to the porch and the trap. Again we reached the point leaving food halfway inside the trap and having it gone the next morning. Our patience seemed to be in a contest with our sense of urgency, because the longer a cat is missing, the lesser the chances of ever finding it.

Now came the test: we set the trap and left the food at the back. I went to bed thinking, This is it -- either there will be a miracle and our cat will be in the trap tomorrow morning, or we will be back to square one, perhaps without any hope of seeing him again. If we did catch him, would he be completely feral, not to mention covered with fleas and ticks?

I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of OW! OW! OWWW!! I dashed into the living room. My husband had brought the trap inside and there was our cat, fur all puffed up, expressing his extreme displeasure. My husband opened the trap and, just as we had expected, the cat dashed out, belly low to the floor, and headed for the nearest hiding place, underneath the sofa.

Our fears about Shakir forgetting all about us and his life as a house cat turned out to be unfounded. Within five minutes he had come out from underneath the sofa and was exploring his old home. He showed no fear when I approached him, and he allowed me to stroke him. He had lost weight but he was not starving. He had been mildly obese to begin with, and he’d had some food, although not in the quantities he was accustomed to. His coat was rough, although that might have been partially because he was still puffed up with excitement. Later we discovered that although he did not seem to have picked up any fleas, he had several ticks in one ear. These fell off within a couple of days after we applied a topical prevention for fleas, ticks, and heartworm.

Thinking that the best thing for Shakir was to let him settle on his own, undisturbed, we went back to bed. Almost immediately, he jumped on the bed, curled up between me and my husband, and began purring ferociously. It had been almost three weeks, and our sweet boy kitty was clearly beside himself with delight to be home again.

Over the next few days, the cat followed us around wherever we went, begging for attention. He not only remembered where the food and litter box were, he remembered the other animals in the household, especially the dog. Purring, he rubbed up against her and cuddled with her, even more than he had before his adventure. He even remembered the tricks that I taught him: standing on his hind legs to touch his nose to mine when I bent over, and turning around in circles.

It has now been a little over a week since Shakir's return. His coat, which was dull and rough, has resumed its previous glossy smoothness. As I write this, he and the dog are playing tag. To say that we are thrilled to have him back is an understatement, although now we remember all the ways he is annoying. That is life!

BayCon 2016 Schedule

I'll be at Baycon 2016, Friday May 27- Monday May 30, 2016, at the San Mateo Marriott. Please stop by and say hello.

Evil to the Core: Villains in Sci fi and Fantasy (Saturday 11:30 - 13:00, Synergy 5)
Sure, the hero gets the gal (or guy) and all the glory, but it's the villain that does all the hard work. Where would Batman be without the Joker? Nowhere! A good villain can drive a story, but it's exhausting and thankless work. Come pay homage to your favorite villains and join in as authors discuss treasured villains in their own work and others to reveal what makes those villains engage or repulse us¦or what fails to. Find out if your antagonist is as villainous as he or she should be.

Autograph Session (Sunday 11:00 - 12:00, Convene Lobby) (I will have copies of Collaborators, Lambda Literary Award Finalist, and other books to sell).

Wonder Woman After 50 (Sunday 14:30 - 16:00, Connect 4)
Ageism in fandom, or, Mom aren't you too old to dress up in silly costumes?

The Adult In Young Adult (Monday 11:30 - 13:00, Synergy 5)
YA: no swearing, sex, violence, or drugs. So your hero is a young boy who's just been thrown in among a bunch of space marines; can you really write a plausible story without swearing and violence? Our panelists discuss finding the appropriate without sacrificing the authentic.