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Howard Hughes vs. Stuff

Er...crappy day yesterday. No words written. Zero. Zilch. Etc. Just a very constructive call from my agent. Otheriwse, I sat here for hours staring at a blank screen. I have looked over the vignette ideas that were submitted yesterday, and, alas, none of them have really, really set the bells ringing. A couple came close, but likely would have sprawled into full-blown short stories, and here it is the 26th and Sirenia Digest #28 needs to go out on the 31st (at the latest). So, if you'd like to please keep making suggestions, the contest still stands (winner gets hisherits choice of a signed and personalized copy of the Beowulf novelization or the new mmp of Murder of Angels.), but I probably won't be using the winning idea until #29.

Why does "science writing" for the masses have to be so stupid? To wit, this story from LiveScience.com, "Fastest Evolving Creature is 'Living Dinosaur'." No. The tuatara is not a dinosaur, not in any sense, but, rather, the last surviving sphenodontid rhynchocephalian. And while the rhynchocephalian lineage can be traced back to at least the Triassic, calling it a "living dinosaur" is almost as dumb as calling a horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) a "living trilobite." Also, the LiveScience.com article manages to misspell the Latin name for the tuatara as "Sphendon punctatus," when it is actually Sphenodon punctatus. But, you know what? I bet you don't care, and I am far too groggy to be this pedantic right now.

And why is it that when you post a "housing wanted" ad to Craiglist, and say the most you're willing/capable to pay per month is $1,150, people write back offering you a place that rents for $1,650? I mean, that's $6000 more a year.

Oh, and did I mention that Spooky has gone on a name-squatting spree on Second Life? We now have Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. She's even created a pretty good avatar likeness of Cope, and it's only a matter of time before the two square off in the Palaeozoic Museum in New Babbage.

Hey, what do you expect from a journal entry titled "Howard Hughes vs. Stuff"?

Warmer weather today, and that's something I won't complain about.

Tell you what, I'll just leave you with more photos of Oakland Cemetery, or the Oakland That Was before the storms of March 14-15. Behind the cut:

All photos copyright © 2007 by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Postscript: Spooky just found weevils in the flour. No, not the Torchwood sort.


( 20 comments — Have your say! )
Mar. 26th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
jebus, those is gawgeous...
Mar. 26th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
It's not just Craigslist. I wish I could say that it was the Interweb (I adore the idiots on eBay who read the postings "I will not stop an auction once started" and promptly ask "Could you stop the auction if I give you $5 for your item?", or the dolts who read measurements on an item of clothing and promptly ask "How big is it?"), but I used to deal with that in old newspaper classified ads as well. The price on that 90-gallon fishtank is already ridiculously low at $350, so calling up to whine "I can give you $100 for it, but you'll have to deliver it out here" impresses me not a jot.

The absolute worst are the SMU sorority sisters who try to fill positions for temp companies: I used to get constant calls where a bozo would see my resume for a technical writer position, tell me that they had a perfect two -week assignment in Austin or Houston for $8 an hour and no benefits that requires ten years of experience in software that had been around for six months, and would get angry with me because neither I nor anyone else on the planet had the skills they were seeking. (I had one asshole call me at nearly midnight one night for one of these positions, and when I told him that I wasn't a programmer after he'd mispronounced a whole flotilla of software names, yelled at me "And why the hell am I talking to you?") Actually, they got really angry when they'd demand that I pass on any names and contact numbers for "any friends you might have who might be interested in this position," because I'd tell them that if I gave them the bozos' numbers, they wouldn't be friends any longer.
Mar. 26th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
I still want to know more about a) the Gallery from your "Crimson Alphabet" set or b) William Hope Hodgson's House of Silence or Quiet City. And I can think of no one whose imagination would do a better job with the latter than you.

But I'll be happy to read whatever you write, and am (im)patiently awaiting "Pickman's Other Model". Don't know why it took me so long to subscribe!
Mar. 26th, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC)
I remember these photos from when you first posted them, and they still retain a bit of wonder. The building in the 8th photo (3rd from bottom), probably some maintenance shed or maybe even the main crematorium(?), is still my favorite - if only for the urban weathering to it. Le sigh.
Mar. 26th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
Oh - that's funny, I just read about the tuatara in my first year biology textbook yesterday (while yelling at my roommate SO REMEMBER HOW THEY SAID DINOSAURS WERE BIRDS AND NOT REPTILE? NOW BIRDS ARE REPTILES - not a very good example of scientific communication either, but I did explain things more), so even I knew that.

I went to a lecture on quorum sensing in bacteria today; it was required for immunology students but I needed the excitement since my second-semester biology teacher is half-dead. (Lynn Margulis lectured in Providence a few weeks ago; I got to ask her something about diatoms and was star-struck.) I started to take science in order to do medical illustration, but am falling more in love with the field all the time and think a lot about the need to communicate scientific information; I wish I could teach my class since I see the 19-year-olds turn off from the awful teacher and that makes me mad.
Mar. 26th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
I may need some clarification on the bird issue, by the way; the text just said that the ancestors of crocodilians, dinosaurs, and birds are archosaurs.

It works out like this:

The unranked clade Archosauria is presently considered by most to include two main clades of "reptiles" (a polyphyletic term that will eventually, I think, fall out of favor with biologists) — the Crurotarsi and the Ornithodira. The latter is presently divided into two clades, the Dinosauria and the Pterosauria. The Dinosauria includes both the Ornithischia (ceratopsians, stegosaurs, hadrosaurs, etc.) and the Saurischia. Now, we then break the Saurischia into two major clades, the Theropoda and Sauropodomorpha. The Theropoda, which leads to "birds," is then subdivided as follows:

There are two major groups of theropods, the Ceratosauria and the Tetanurae. Tetanurans are subdivided into the Spinosauroidea and the Avetheropoda (that second name should be a give away if you know just a smattering of Latin). The Avetheropoda is divided into the Carnosauria and the Coelurosauria. Coelurosauria contains the Tyrannoraptora, a group that includes a clade named Maniraptoriformes. The maniraptors lead, in time, to two clades, the Oviraptosauria and the Eumaniraptora. The latter contains both the Deinonychosauria ("raptors," the predatory dinosaur group which includes Velociraptor) and the Avialae. It is that last group, the Avialae that we tend to call "birds."

In truth, there is no clear cut line between dinosaurs and birds (simply put, birds truly are theropod dinosaurs), anymore than there is a clear cut line between "reptiles" and archosaurs, or "reptiles" and "mammals." But it is as correct to call a bird a reptile as it is to call Tyrannosaurus a reptile.

Here I follow the phylogeny presented in Weishampel, David B.; Dodson, Peter; Osmólska, Halszka (eds.) (2004). The Dinosauria, Second Edition. University of California Press.

Edited at 2008-03-26 06:42 pm (UTC)
Mar. 26th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
I have looked over the vignette ideas that were submitted yesterday, and, alas, none of them have really, really set the bells ringing.

A cemetery and two stone angels.
Mar. 26th, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC)
A very long time ago I went to the Members night meeting and tour at the California Academy of Sciences. In the basement was a smallish tank. The tour person pointed it out and said it was a Tuatra. I sort of shrieked, "A Sphenadon", She took it out of the tank and let me hold it. I still treasure that time. I read some months later that it had died of a fungal infection. Later they were only allowed off of Round Island to Gerry Durrell, who bred endangered critters. I don't know if he was sucessful with them.

Mar. 26th, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC)

She took it out of the tank and let me hold it.

Wow. I officially envy you.
Mar. 26th, 2008 08:11 pm (UTC)
still on story ideas
I'm very fond of the idea of making my leftover carbon into a diamond when I'm gone. Someone I know once mentioned how terrifying they found that prospect, given their occult leanings and their use of stones in ritual work. Perhaps then a diamond wouldn't be such a romantic gift.
Mar. 26th, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about Second Life, and how much fun it would be to make an RP sim of the CRK-verse, with vampires and ghouls and changelings... Now, how to FUND such a venture...?
Mar. 26th, 2008 08:43 pm (UTC)

We've been pondering the same thing, lately...
Mar. 26th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
When I was looking at the pictures of Oakland, I just got this image of a nice cemetery in SL, where you could find your way down into the old tunnels and warrens of the Children of the Cuckoo... Mmmm....
Mar. 27th, 2008 02:30 am (UTC)
Ask and the internet provides:

Giant Squid Dies After Accidentally Injecting Self with Sperm.

Ring, ah ring! Hell's bells!

Mar. 27th, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)
Tell me you liked the last paragraph of the article, where they put homosexual activity in other animals on the same level as a praying mantis eating her mate. Oh Scotsman, when will you learn? At least someone had fun titling and captioning it.

Mar. 27th, 2008 10:20 am (UTC)
No, not the Torchwood sort.

Now have an image of one rising up out of the mixing bowl...
Mar. 27th, 2008 12:37 pm (UTC)
It happens, once you get expert about something
I studied computational linguistics and now i get these mental headaches anytime i read, or hear people come up with the subjects of OCR, automatic translation or even AI
People talk stuff without knowing the complexity in it. And popular science mags quickly simplify it much too much.
I dont know LiveScience....i like Scientific American very much, but then again my Quantum Physics and Astronomy are on the "very enthusiastic autodidacitc amateur" level
Would i have taken university courses in that and written papers, i might never touch that mag again. ;-)

BTW my "Tales of Pains and Wonder" arrived today from Amazon.de
Will get it from the Packstation on my way home.
Mar. 27th, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
Please tell Spooky that if she puts a bay leaf in her dry goods it will keep weevils away...but only the kind that really like flour and cereal. ;-)

Oh and have you considered making a plot wheel or pot/bag even? Write character names on slips of paper and put them in a bag and write situations on other pieces of paper and put in a seperate container...draw as many as needed and make up a story involving those elements. It is kiddie stuff but it might get you started at least.
Mar. 27th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
As Sovay has beaten me to the stone angel suggestion, and given the comp criteria:

"nasty" sensu "malicious; spiteful" and/or "painful or dangerous; grave" and/or "morally offensive; indecent."

How about a boy getting off on some horrid "pseudo rape" porn video, so nasty that a static white noise phallus exudes from the screen to teach the boy a lesson...
Mar. 27th, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC)
Wanted to introduce myself! My friend Prosper gave me your book Daughter of Hounds today, I believe she is your next-door neighbor? Anyway, I just started reading your book, (I'm currently on page 18) and I have to say it's amazing! I love Sheldon! And the whole story about the woman in the prolouge? It's brillant!

I'm also an aspiring writer, and I know you probably have a lot of work you must do, but if you could take some time to read a bit from my new original fiction (it's the very first part of Chapter 1, and the story isn't done yet because it is being rewritten) I would love to get a review on a writer who I admire! Here is the link:


Again, if you don't have the time, I perfectly understand. :)
( 20 comments — Have your say! )