August 4th, 2010


Get a FIRST life before you attempt a SECOND.

On this day last year, The Red Tree was released. And here I am, a year later, with no Next New Novel finished. Indeed, it's only barely begun. Of course, I know I have perfectly valid reasons for this. But the little voice in my head, the one that keeps me awake nights, keeps telling me I'm a bum, and there's no excuse, and anyone can write a book in a year...and so forth. But I can only do what I can do. I suspect the little voice believes I have it within me to be a factory. I wish it were right. However, I know I don't. But there's not much point in bemoaning this long, slow composition. It comes when it comes, and all the threats and deadlines on earth can't make it come sooner. This is the best I can do, but I still have to try to do better, and hope for patience from my editor.

Mornings and most of the afternoon, for weeks now, I've been struggling with very low blood pressure. I spend half the day sick, and only start feeling okay towards sunset. Turns out, it was because two of my meds cause low blood pressure, and I've been taking both at bedtime. Last night, I only took one, and I woke up feeling fine this morning. I'll take the second drug around 2 p.m., and hopefully the problem will be solved.

We begin to grow old. We talk about medication in our blogs.

Yesterday was an oddly productive day for someone who was supposedly taking a day off. After the journal entry, I answered email. After that, I went back to work on the painting I've been trying to finish. And then I spent about an hour on the Table of Contents for the "Best of CRK" volume. Turns out, my very tentative ToC is already up to 181,203 words (out of a target word count of 200k). So, I'm going to have to shuffle, and choose carefully from here on. Then I went back to work on the painting. Then the new Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology arrived. I read for a while and almost fell asleep. I went back to work on the painting, and feared I'd made a horrible mess of it. I stopped and took a bath and washed my hair. I went back to the painting again, and fixed what I'd hated (I dither as much while painting as while writing).

After dinner, I overindulged in rp in Insilico. But there were two great scenes, and my thanks to Nina, Hibiki, and Dr. Ang Faith (and Jake the hovering robot). Before bed, we watched two more episodes of Nip/Tuck. This show confounds me. Every time I think I'm fed up with rich white people whining about their problems, Nip/Tuck gets amazing again. I got to bed about 3 a.m., and dozed off to Blade Runner.

And that was yesterday.


The new JVP (Vol. 30, No. 4) includes the paper "Torosaurus Marsh, 1891, is Triceratops Marsh 1889 (Ceratopsidae: Chasmosaurinae): synonymy through ontogeny" by John Scannella and Jack Horner. Unlike most papers in JVP, this one's been getting a lot of press, and like most science that gets a lot of press, the story has often been misinterpreted by the media. Late last night, William Gibson tweeted, "No, Virginia, there never was a Triceratops." And I found myself correcting him, which was surreal, indeed.

Two things about this paper (since it seems to have caused such a fuss). First off, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, by which all biologists (neobiologists and paleobiologists) have to comply, dictates that whenever a situation like this one arises— one where a single animal has been given two or more names —the first proposed name has priority over all later names. Later names become junior synonyms. The object of this is to preserve taxonomic stability and avoid confusion in the scientific literature. So, in this case, the name Triceratops, erected in 1889, is conserved, and the name Torosaurus, erected in 1891, is abandoned. Which is to say, "No, Virginia, there never was a Torosaurus." Only, this isn't really an accurate way of looking at the problem.

People are used to looking at species as static entities. But biologists work with species (and all other taxonomic units— the case of Triceratops is a genus-level problem) as hypotheses. And any given hypothesis may be discarded by future discoveries. That is, the name Triceratops is a hypothesis seeking to explain a collection of seemingly related fossils of a Late Cretaceous horned dinosaur. The hypothesis says that all specimens of Triceratops are more closely related to one another than they are they are to any other genus of chasmosaurine dinosaur. But, like all hypotheses, it can be falsified in light of future discoveries. In this case, the discovery of new fossils giving us a more complete picture of Triceratops as a living population of animals, and allowing us to realize that the morph we used to call "Torosaurus" is actually only the very mature form of Triceratops. As an hypothesis, "Torosaurus" appears to have been falsified. Now, it's possible that Scannella and Horner are wrong, and that future discoveries and/or research of old discoveries will show that Triceratops and "Torosaurus" really are two taxa (though I've read the paper, and this seems unlikely). All hypotheses are provisional. Nothing is ever certain. Never. The best argument may be in error. That's how science works, even if the press seems unable to grasp this.

And it's time I get to work. The platypus is growling, and the mothmen are livid. Here are a few more photos from Monday, taken at Spooky's parents' farm:

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