Category Archives: Stuff

The working file was more scary

An interim step in the last picture is more horrifying.

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…wait, before I go there’s homework

I was thinking of looking at Hugo short fiction just through the medium of dinosaurs because why not. Now, I do NOT need suggestions of dinosaur related short fiction from 2014 onward (that is all well covered and I know what’s what) but I’d like suggestions of stuff from 2013 and backwards eg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scherzo_with_Tyrannosaur

In this case (and it pains me to say it) dragons don’t count but Pellucidar style stuff does. You’ve got two weeks!

Hiatus

So nothing to see here for a couple of weeks. I’ll be in the Himalayas and I’m leaving the blog parked in the garage* (Sunday Beer posts have been pre-drunk and scheduled to post on autopilot). If I can get wi-fi I’ll send a photo of a yak.

[*”gah-rahjj” or “garidge” depending on who says it]

The Mercury 13 and other things

So, after moaning petulantly about the books availability I’m now actually deep into the audio book version of Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Calculating Stars”. I’m sufficiently in that I looped back to some of the less favourable reviews and snark from the usual places. I’m not going to bother linking to any examples because at best they are uninformed and at worst it’s just some right wing arse who has skimmed over a plot summary.

The gist of the objection is the premise of the book: an alternate history of the 1950s US in which a catastrophic meteorite impact has spurred on the race to space. The narrator and protagonist is woman mathematician who was a pilot during world war 2 and who has ambitions to be an astronaut.

That sentence is what appears to have discombobulated some people. Yet that aspect is *barely* alternative history.

  1. Absolutely American women flew military planes during World War 2 – as described in the book the Womens Airforce Service Pilots (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_Airforce_Service_Pilots ) delivered planes between airfields.
  2. I don’t think the WASP pilots flew in Europe, unlike the character in the book, but American women did fly for the ATA in the UK, a group that served a similar role for the Royal Airforce.
  3. Many of the wartime WASP pilots went on to have remarkable careers in other fields postwar. I don’t think that it is remotely surprising that a group of exceptional people had talents in other areas — even more so when post-war their access to professional flying careers was severely curtailed.
  4. The civilian women’s flying club The Ninety Nines described in the book was a real thing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninety-Nines
  5. The discrimination and antagonism depicted towards female pilots from male pilots is also historically documented https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_Airforce_Service_Pilots#Discrimination

OK, but what about the whole “Lady Astronaut” thing? That’s where the book wanders into alternate history? Again, not really. The Mercury 13 were a set of women who underwent the same physical tests as the male pilots selected for the Mercury astronaut program. Just as in the book, these women were accomplished pilots (and also literally referred to as “Lady Astronauts). The political pressure to admit women to the astronaut program was evident in 1962 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_13#House_Committee_Hearing_on_Sex_Discrimination While that is a few years later than the setting of the book it is roughly the same time period and obviously under quite different circumstances than post-impact world depicted.

And of course the ‘Mary-Sue’ charge is rolled out again whenever a woman character has skills in more than one field. By point of comparison consider the real life character Geraldyn Cobb http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/C/Cobb.html

  • “Cobb first flew at the age of 12 in the backseat of an open-cockpit biplane, a 1936 Waco, flown by her father. By age 16, she was barnstorming around the Great Plains in a Piper J-3 Cub”
  • “She gained her Private Pilot’s license at the age of 17, her Commercial Pilot’s license on her 18th birthday”
  • “By age 19, Cobb was teaching men to fly, and by 21, she was delivering military fighters and four-engine bombers to foreign Air Forces around the world. ” [this was post WW2]
  • “in 1959, Dr. W. Randolph Lovelace II invited Cobb to undergo the physical fitness testing regimen that he had helped to develop to select the original US astronauts – the Mercury Seven. She became the first American woman to do so and proved every bit as successful in the tests as had John Glenn”
  • “Cobb was appointed by NASA Administrator James Webb as consultant to the nation’s space program in May 1961, but NASA’s requirement that astronauts have military jet test pilot experience eliminated all women since women were not allowed to fly in the military. A year later, the Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space.”

People confuse their own lack of knowledge about something with how likely something is. I guess I shouldn’t be amazed that the thing that would tax somebody’s suspension of disbelief in an alternate-history science fiction novel is a women pilot who is also talented in other fields but yes, that really is what some people find hard to believe.

Star Trek Discovery: Perpetual Infinity (S2E11)

No major twists this week but the episode takes a similar pace as last week’s episode. This steadier pacing of episode is letting the actors play to the their strengths. Sonequa Martin-Green has always been one of the strongest assets of the show and has coped brilliantly with some of the absurd situations the script writers have thrown at Michael Burnham. This week she gets to deal with even more emotional trauma and less than stellar parenting when she meets her time-traveling mother. Even Spock appears moved and at least looks like he might think about shouldering some of the emotional labour that Michael’s two sets of parents have managed to dump upon her.

The wider plot is mainly a bunch of stuff that happens. I see in some other reviews (e.g. the Mary Sue review) that some saw this episode as a return to Season 1’s bad habits. I didn’t find that, if anything it looked more like an episode of a show that has a much better understanding of what it is: a set of flawed but deep people dealing with space nonsense played by a set of actors who really know how to convincingly carry that off.

Ash and Georgiou get their own side action as they get caught up in Section 31’s compromised situation with sinister future AI Control. Everything, of course, goes very badly for everybody but really, given the legitimate excuse of a time-travel plot, events actually had fewer holes than usual.

Only one substantial twist, and it’s not much of a spoiler, Red Angel/Michael’s Mum has no idea what the mysterious red signals are. So that particular plot mystery is re-instated.

Rankings

  1. An Obol for Charon (e4) – Classic Trek on a magic mushroom trip
  2. Point of Light (e3) – season one Discovery is back for revenge
  3. Brother (e1) – an action orientated fresh start for the Discovery crew
  4. Perpetual Infinity (e11) – Mistakes were made, repeatedly
  5. The Red Angel (e10) – the cast gets an episode to catch up with the plot and trap the Red Angel
  6. If Memory Serves (e8) – A sequel to The Cage and a prequel to The Menagerie
  7. New Eden (e2) – The Next Generation of The Next Generation
  8. Saints of Imperfection (e5) – Let’s get the old gang back together!
  9. Project Daedelus (e9) – Airiam we will miss you, though we barely got to know you
  10. Light and Shadow (e7) – Michael goes one way, Discovery goes another
  11. Sound of Thunder (e6) – Non-consensual medical procedures on a whole species

Bits and Pieces

  • A Tilly-lite episode this week. We do get to learn that her second favourite law of physics is Newton’s Third Law. Saru presents us from learning her first but I would guess its the Second Law of Thillydynamics (the amount of Tilly in an isolated episode always increases leading to a state of Tilly equilibrium.)
  • So there’s some obvious Borg speculation about Control. I suspect this won’t end up being Genesis of the Borg.
  • The softening of Georgiou is a bit disappointing. Obviously an on-going character can’t be as thoroughly evil as she was as Emperor but she shouldn’t become too nice.
  • The various Red Angel interventions make some more sense now and Michael’s mum has been retconned into watching over her in Season 1 also. Her intervention on Saru’s homeworld is less obvious though.
  • The mess up with the genetic signature from the Red Angel was just handwaved away. In short: they just don’t really know what they are doing with all this DNA stuff 🙂
  • Cora’s review is here http://corabuhlert.com/2019/03/29/star-trek-discovery-jerks-the-old-tear-ducts-in-perpetual-infinity/

Today’s junk food: Spag Bol flavoured crisps

Today I throw my body in the front of impending danger and take all the damage that would otherwise have inflected on you dear readers by eating thinly sliced starch covered in fats and salt. Specifically Smith’s Spag Bol flavoured “chips” (as they are uncouthly referred to in Australia*)

Disappointing really. I was hoping for a really strong tomato flavour but it was bit more generic smoky taste. I note that the packet says “contains milk or milk products” so at any moment I might be assaulted by one of the many gangs of roaming vegan vigilantes (or vegalantes as they are known) funded by shadowy sources (or perhaps shadowy sauces). Also the packet notes “contains soybeans of soybean products” which might enrage right wingers – thus putting these snacks in the radical centre. Gluten free though, so I’m not likely to angry any celiac street gangs.

Tim’s Signs of the Zodiac

  • March 21 to April 21: You are Assertive Sheep. You are a sheep but very assertive…for a sheep. You catchphrase is ‘bah’. You follow the rest of your flock but under protest and you are happy to explain to everybody why the flock is going in the wrong direction.’
  • April 21 to May 21: You are Very Angry Cow. This is just like the last sign: you are a stroppy farm animal. Your catchphrase is ‘MOO! F*CKIN MOO!’ You like to eat grass and hit people with your head.
  • May 21 to June 21: You are The Two People. Your catchphrase is ‘I may be two people but at least I’m not a farm animal with poor emotional control’. Your hobby is running away from farm animals with poor emotional control. You jump into the sea to escape them only to find the sea has goats in it.
  • June 21 to August, no July 21: You are Snappy Shellfish. Your catchphrase is ‘I’m SHELLfish not SELFISH’ That isn’t true though because you are both.
  • July 21 to August 21 definitely this time: You are Big Hairy Cat. You are the best. Your catchphrase is ‘Meow, mother truckers!’ Your mother drove a truck unless she was English in which case she drove a lorry: Either way the vehicle was full of merchandise from 1980s cartoons.
  • August 21 to September 21: You are Shop Window Mannequin. You don’t have a catchphrase as you just stare at the shoppers in the street ahead of you with a look on your face that silently condemns that empty consumerism of Western society and its obsession with fashion. You ironically wear a t-shirt with the title of a TV show you watched as a kid.
  • September 21 to (counts on paw) October 21: You are Kitchen Equipment. Your catchphrase is ‘I’d be happy to help but I’m stuck in this cupboard’. Your personality trait is metric versus imperial. You know what a fluid ounce is. You have some flour stuck to your bottom.
  • October 21 to November 21: You are Doctor Scorpio The Scorpion. You are a bad guy in a 1980’s cartoon. You might be the main henchminion or you might be the boss. If you are the boss then you have a cat. Your catchphrase is ‘Time to die Aqua-Goat!’
  • November 21 to December 21: You are What Even Is That. You have way too much going on and some sort of horse, human, archery vibe thing. Looks sporty I guess. Your catchphrase is ‘Doctor Scorpio’s hideous experiments may have made me a monster but they could not rob me of my basic humanity’.
  • December 21 to January 21: You are Aqua-Goat! The very quickly cancelled 1980’s cartoon superhero who was a wise-cracking sea goat who solved sea-mysteries with his gang of friends who lived on a boat. Your friends were a cheap knock-off of the Scooby gang and the Archies. Your catchphrase was ‘Time to solve this sea mystery Aqua-Goat style!’ That sounds a bit sad but unlike all these other signs at least you HAVE friends even if one of them is a badly drawn version of Jughead mixed with Shaggy.
  • January 21 to February 21: You are Bucket Guy. You have buckets. Your catchphrase is ‘I’ve brought buckets if anybody wants one’ but nobody ever does want one.
  • February 21 to March 21: You are Fishy McSwim. Your catchphrase is ‘ I hate Aqua Goat. What’s a goat doing in the sea anyway? How did this ever get made?’ Yet for some reason you still track down repeats of Aqua-Goat on obscure cable channels just so you can snark about them from the confines of your fish tank. Your best friend is Assertive Sheep who texts your regularly about the stupid thing the flock is doing now which Assertive Sheep is going along with but under protest. ‘I know just how you feel!’ You text back to Assertive Sheep. You may be a fish with an obsession about a cartoon you hate but you know how to validate your friend’s feelings. You always politely decline Bucket Guy’s offer of buckets but you get where he is coming from.