aesmael: (probably quantum)

On my drive home tonight I was listening to an episode of ABC Radio's All in the Mind program, an episode called "Placenta Brain: the cognitive burden of pregnancy?". Amid all the talk of whether being pregnant induces cognitive impairment[1], this exchange struck me as relevant from an autistic perspective.

Mary Ann Stark: We all use both voluntary and involuntary attention and the involuntary attention - or what we call fascination - is where you can't help but be attracted to a certain stimuli. For example, thunder and lightening are something that we all just pause and stop, it's fascinating. Then there's another type of attention that's called directed attention, is what I've chosen to call it, and so have some others such as Kaplan and Semprich - but the directed attention is the kind of attention that really requires effort. That's what we have to use to listen carefully, as someone's explaining directions to us.

Abbie Thomas: It's like when I'm trying to sort of tell my husband about what we're doing on the weekend, he has to really concentrate and block out the fact that he wants to go and so some model railway work.

Mary Ann Stark: Or you know a football game on TV might be a little bit more interesting too and more fascinating. But you do use both of those types of attention and their appropriate at different times for different reasons. But what happens especially in our very fast paced lives is we tend to use directed attention a lot. We use it consistently and it's one of those things that because we're blocking out the distractions around us requires a lot of effort. And if we continually use it, it tends to fatigue. Well one of the ways that you can kind of give directed attention a break is to just do the things that are fascinating and that's what nature does. It allows us opportunities to just become fascinated with what's going on around us, and then when we have to use that directed attention again we're a little bit more refreshed and restored, so that we can block out the distractions that we need to block out in order to continue driving and following the map or whatever the example is we might use.

[1] The conclusion I took from the episode is that this effect may be an illusion brought on by stereotyped expectation, along with possibly the amplified load of trying to continue living while also preparing large life changes. But that is more or less what I expected to be the case going in, and biases being confirmed merits some suspicion.

aesmael: (sexy)

[wrote this two days ago. no less true now]

     Been feeling more self-conscious about my voice recently. Pretty sure that is from being 'out' at work and somehow feeling like I am letting myself down more when I don't get interpreted as a woman. Relatedly, worrying my co-workers are expecting a bit more of a transformation on my part when there isn't really anything left for me to do – getting my documentation updated and informing my employer was just about it. I've been on hormones for years, I've had hair removed, I've been wearing clothes I bought in the women's department… there isn't really anything left for me to do. Perhaps I should be used to letting people down by now.

A week ago (maybe 2? time is difficult and I have been trying to focus on school) my podcast listening project got to the end of playlist #12, which covered the span from 2005-07-10 to 2005-10-01. That meant it was time to download and catalogue + compile episodes for playlist #15, spanning 2005-12-18 to 2006-01-21. Obviously I ran into problems or I wouldn't have words to be typing about it. Old episodes from Universe Today are still no longer available for download, although the articles they were published in are still up. That is something I can get around for a while by having episodes already downloaded from the last time I tried to embark on comprehensive podcast up-catching. That was already a problem, and I emailed them about it a month or two back asking about it.

This time I find also that Slacker Astronomy is giving a 403 error when I try to access its feeds. Not totally unexpected, as they have not had a new episode since 2011 but I had very much been hoping to get through listening to the archives before the site did eventually go offline. Playlist #15 also included the premiere episode of another podcast, that of Science magazine, and I was disheartened to find that episode no longer downloads either. Actually, even though the old podcast archive page for that site still exists, it doesn't seem to be accessible on the Science magazine website except via the link I have bookmarked. The new site navigation only gives an archive stretching back to about 2012. They have not taken all the old episodes offline though; the September 2006 episode still loads, and presumably the ones after it do too.

I do not have time because there is a lot of studying and school-work I need to prioritise first, but if and when I can, this provokes in me a desire to download the old episodes of various podcasts while I still can, and to save offline copies of their web pages as well so those can be used to apply metadata to the episodes when it comes time to compile them into playlists for listening.

This is likely a bad idea. For Science as well as Universe Today I have episodes previously downloaded that bridge most of but not all the gap to where more reliable archives begin again (in the case of Universe Today, when it is replaced by Astronomy Cast. In the case of Slacker Astronomy I also have episodes from their main feed into 2006, although not from their Extra feed which holds some interesting interviews.

I should reconcile myself to the fact some things are lost beyond my reach, and I will have to make do with what I have and can get. As I had to do when despite the good fortune of finding old radio episodes on of Are We Alone? they still were a spotty record which did not cover the whole span, and leaves a gap before the officially available archives commence. If we pretend I really have dropped any fretting over that entirely from my heart, which is lies.

Ironically last night I was listening to an episode of Slacker Astronomy Extra, “Getting Astronomy News Online” which toward the end touched on the importance of long term information storage and access, including format standardisation and using such resources as to preserve information into the future, but does not in this distant future preserve episodes of Slacker Astronomy against disappearing. Perhaps also ironically, the following episode on my playlist was one in which Fraser Cain performed an interview on behalf of Skepticality while Derek was in rehab. We have this record of the work he performed for others but can no longer access his own podcast (Universe Today) which Swoopy referred to in its introduction.


Or perhaps that is not irony. Despite fancying myself a writer I have never had better than a slippery grasp on that concept.


aesmael: (Electric Waves)

[Wrote this on Wednesday; some additions before posting Friday due to the passage of time]

I think I must have mentioned the acquisition of fragmentary older archives of SETI Radio (now Are We Alone?) previously because memory says I have written of starting the podcast listening over again and going through an initial set of Planetary Radio alone.

It continues to irk me that I do not have access to the full, original run of Are We Alone? from 2002 because I do remember seeing those listed in iTunes back in 2005-06 or thenabouts but of course at the time did not have the bandwidth - or possibly even the storage space - to download them then. The same is true for some other shows like Planetary Radio, but at least they still have their entire run available on the website.

But since then, as I have been distracted from writing by school and workplace commitments, we have moved on successively to first a truncated second playlist where The Naked Scientists originally came in, and then a third beginning at the point where the earliest available episodes of Are We Alone? from begin.

Probably I mentioned that early Planetary Radio featured heavily guests and projects connected with the Planetary Society, such as SETI@Home, before moving on to a strong Mars focus for the historic close approach of Earth and Mars in August 2003 and the launches of several robotic missions to Mars; that focus has continued to where I am currently at in listening, late January 2004 when the second of two rovers (Opportunity) has only just landed on that planet.

I feel like my insistence on pinning these podcasts as near as I am able into a chronological order is vindicated by occasions such as the landing of the Spirit rover (and now Opportunity) when I have each of these three science shows reporting on the same events from their own particular perspectives and sources. It gives me an enjoyable feeling of synergy, a sense of time and place that these programs really do relate to each other in some meaningful way.

The current list, Playlist 3, is I am sure by far the longest that will be in at least terms of span covered. It starts at the beginning of November 2003 and extends to January 2005, when Playlist 4 will begin with the addition of The Philosopher's Zone from ABC Radio. To that point, every single podcast in my list which extends so far back in time is one also broadcast by radio, which seems odd to me. The first which exists purely as a podcast (and I suppose in that sense as an entirely amateur production[1]) is the one following, Slacker Astronomy, which is also the earliest podcast on my list to no longer be active.

It continues to be strange to me that The Naked Scientists hosts a call-in contest “Science Fact or Science Fiction” wherein callers are presented with a claim and asked to judge whether it is true or made up, because there is a similar game in the podcast The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe [2], Science or Fiction, in which the hosts are challenged to pick the fake science news stories from the genuine ones.

Nearly finished the book I'm reading[3] at the moment and have nearly a week to wait until I can get hold of the sequel at earliest. In the meanwhile as well as working on that placement report I can hopefully make sure to get some more writing done on what I think of the various books I've been reading over the past year. Most of them do have partial or complete notes written up already, it's just a few gaps that need filling so I can finish off and actually put them up in the order they were read. Am quite looking forward to getting that done because I do tend to enjoy talking about what I am reading and what I think of it, even if this is mostly awful.

So, objective for the next few days: work on placement report, work on not-reviews, also hopefully put together a nice meal for people which will likely involve fish.

Getting up to date on not-reviews and on my reading database are the two main personal projects I feel backlogged on currently. Maybe after those are up to date I will feel free to write more and to play games, both of which I feel I am missing out on. Therefore, the perpetual cry of diligence and energy!

[1] Although of the four which precede it, two are on public, non-profit broadcasters and the other two, as I understand it, rather rough or humble beginnings before acquiring their polish.

[2] Which doesn't start until 2005 but due to more extensive RSS availability I listened to a lot of in my first attempt at podcast catch-up – it was nearly the oldest one available by that approach.

[3] Now actually finished, during a lovely lunch in a café yesterday after my endocrinologist appointment.

aesmael: (nervous)
Started on project Catch Up Chronologically To The Podcasts I Subscribe To [on 2015-0-17]. This is something I have attempted a few times since 2012, periodically restarting as I devise more satisfying (i.e. completist) ways of going about it. The furthest I got was covering the span from 2005 to early 2008, by the close of 2013. Since then I have gone through a few restarts and fads but hope to have finally settled on a scheme which will stick. The last few iterations have mostly been refining spreadsheets and completeness of archival access but I think I have hit a limit on that - the most recent reset based on having the inspiration that otherwise inaccessible back episodes of SETI Radio might have been uploaded to the Internet Archive and indeed they were - although not I think by the artists themselves. Rather, it appears to be the work of some audience member who has uploaded a few other radio shows (consequently there appear to be a few missing episodes but as they are so far as I know genuinely inaccessible this does not bother me as much as I feared it might).

Currently it is a bit lonely all the way back in 2002 where the only accessible show from my subscriptions is Planetary Radio [this show was not part of the 2005-2008 set as its RSS feed does not include episodes from so far in the past, and originally RSS was the standard I was going by]. There are at least two other shows from my subscriptions that were airing at the time - The Naked Scientists, and SETI Radio's Are We Alone? - but the episodes for one cannot be downloaded for that period and for the other, those episodes appear to have disappeared off the internet entirely. So Planetary Radio it is.

The show starts off a bit timid, a bit shaky. At first the guests are all people with strong connections to the Planetary Society - the guests for the first two shows are society's Executive Director and Director of Projects, respectively. Then David Anderson of the SETI@Home project, which they helped get off the ground, and a conversation with Freeman Dyson recorded when he had visited their offices a couple of months previous. What I am saying is, it takes a little while to develop into the fun, consistent show I remember from two previous attempts at this project.

It was interesting even in the very first episode from November 2002 hearing mention of missions which are current and active right now - the two Mars Exploration Rovers (not yet named Spirit and Opportunity, but they did promote their competition for kids to name them!), and New Horizons - both of which had not yet launched at the time of airing. Also a bit of question-raising about whether Pluto is or is not a planet, but at the time they suggested the question could wait for the probe to visit before we decide.

Last episode of the year shifts into the more familiar format, with Emily Lakdawalla doing Questions & Answers instead of Random Space Facts, and random space facts being moved to the concluding What's Up segment, along with the introduction of the trivia contest. Bruce Betts and Matt Kaplan relaxing into their roles gradually which, their banter is a lot of what makes Planetary Radio so fun for me to listen to. I wonder how much this may have changed in the future beyond my previous listenings (somewhere in 2006 I think...)?

At the time of writing this I left off listening part-way through the 2003-01-20 episode in which the interview is about a joint Palestinian-Israeli student experiment aboard the shuttle Columbia. That always gives me chills because at the time they recorded and broadcast the mission was already doomed and no one knew it. So they talk excitedly of anticipated results and how they hope the mission might be remembered. My feelings about that episode are also shifted by having read earlier this year the two autobiographical volumes [I Saw Ramallah; I Was Born There, I Was Born Here] by Mourid Barghouti about his experiences as a Palestinian and returning to Palestine after having lived in exile.

The last episode of 2002 also featured a guest who I think is the first to not be affiliated with the Planetary Society, Andre Bormanis "Star Trek writer and consultant". I felt a bit embarrassed to learn he would occasionally incorporate elements such as a neutron microscope in one episode of Enterprise, knowing that by current understanding such a technology is nonsensical but wanting to suggest the greater advancement of the period, or to get the audience pondering how it might become possible - since that is the sort of element I likely would scoff at. Although transporters are pretty impossible-seeming too and I do not scoff at those, so what is with this line-drawing?

Also, one of the Q&A segments was on what would happen to an astronaut suddenly exposed to vacuum. The focus in that answer was on water vapourisation due to decompression and forecast likely unconsciousness in about 10 seconds, which I think is rather harsh compared against other attempts at assessing what would happen. That answer did come from a NASA medical specialist so it probably has a lot of substance behind it, but it seems strange to me that - as my impression is - there seems not a lot of agreement about what would happen to a person in a vacuum or how survivable an experience it might be. I suppose perhaps we have very limited data on this, which is probably a good thing.

Not planning to write about every single episode of everything as I listen, but I do want to write about anything that stands out to me or inspires me to want to say something. That is, as you might put it, a goal here.

So what else? The music used for about the first year gives me strong Sim City SNES vibes. Last night I ended up taking a break from writing this for a few hours because I was swept up in a passion and determined inspiration to make another attempt at tracking down 'lost' back archives for a few other podcasts and I succeeded on two of them: Science Talk (Scientific American) and House to Astonish. The latter was actually only a solveable problem since the beginning of this month when they uploaded their first 50 episodes to the Internet Archive. The former I could have solved at any time if I had only thought a bit more carefully and put my search skills to use. I had been too focused on finding the episodes within the website hosting them, when it is actually far more effective to use a search engine to search within the site on a specified date range. And now I can rest a bit easier.
aesmael: (probably quantum)

On the drive home today I listened to the episode of Planetary Radio covering SpaceShipOne's claiming of the X Prize, from way back in October of 2004 (why yes, I am behind on a great many things). The bulk of it held interviews with private industry types and a lot of overwrought language which annoyed me about how important what they did is.

Stuff like suggesting NASA and major aerospace corporations are now thinking "we're screwed" in the face of SpaceShipOne.

Because I have a helluva lot bigger goal than they do. And you know what that goal is? I absolutely have to develop a manned space tourism system for Sir Richard Branson that's at least a 100 times safer than anything that's ever flown a man to space and probably a lot more. I have to do that.

And perhaps it is just me, but I thoroughly do not believe building a suborbital or low Earth orbit moneymaker for a billionaire is even slightly bigger or more important than doing actual research on the rest of the solar system and universe. Maybe if they were working on a destination, somewhere to actually go and spend time in space that would be different. But not a quick dip out of the atmosphere so the rich and famous can score themselves a new "I've been there" shirt.

aesmael: (haircut)

Finally answered the Malheurs' question about podcasts we listen to ('finally' - it was only yesterday morning). Left a few off because didn't want to flood, though. Mainly SF Crossing The Gulf, science news series like the Nature magazine podcast, and the story magazines like Escape Pod and Podcastle. And some I just can't recommend like Skeptic's Guide to the Universe partly for the often confrontational tone (and associated ablism) but especially what stands out is one of the host's periodic parodies of Asian accents.So, nope, however much I may enjoy I can't recommend at least pre-2008 version of the show.

Got the day off, so all that prospect of wide open day to fill and be diligent in. But we never manage that in the actuality. It's a nice dream.

Not been able to exercise in a while because of my leg, but that's healed now and was surprised at how easily the routine went this morning. First thought on the treadmill was that I really need to get a sports bra as the bounce was quite unpleasant. And then spiralling a bit of self-hate because it seems no one in the country makes sports bras sized for women as large as me with such small breasts. Going to have to wait for the regular bra I ordered to arrive and see how well that fits. And then most likely follow Ami's advice of getting a smaller size and an extender for the strap.

Hope that works. Been waiting on getting a bra sorted so I can fix up the rest of my wardrobe for nearly half a year now.

Last night on the drive home listening to Science Friday episode from 2015-02-06 they covered the final instalment of the show's bookclub reading The Lost City of Z. They'd been discussing that the past few episodes, a retracing of a British explorer who long ago went missing in the Amazon searching for a lost city. This had me wondering if and how such tropes as explorer's clubs and celebrity explorers might be used in RPGs, and whether this could be done in a non-colonialist way (the short answer I came to is probably no, and on my head be it if I insist on including them anyway). Ideas such as cross-planar exploration, seeking out unknown worlds and planar regions for establishing contact and trade or relations with, and possibly the world of narrative focus being but newly created and consequently not in a position to exert force outward. But that latter is less of a help than the details of motives in seeking outward and celebrating news brought back.

Alternatively or perhaps also, having characters be of non-European-derived societies, exploring into the ruins of a lost European-style society. Good excuse for lots of castle dungeons and monster-infested ruined townships. Could be explained as plague-depopulated (or some other catastrophe), much as what actually happened in the Americas and Australia when European settlers arrived (except of course no real monsters), although what I'd been thinking in that idea was not so much to make that parallel as more Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt to make a conveniently depopulated Euro-fantasyland. And the fact that it does make a parallel to the real world creates problems in using such an idea, because there is an implicit association that if such a depopulated land is suitable for guilt-free exploration and ruin-romps, then it must have been similarly okay for Europeans to go through Australia and those Americas after disease had drastically reduced the populations and ability to sustain existing societies there.

As was pointed out in the much more interesting (and far too short) following segment in which they had as guest an archaeologist to talk about actual Amazonian ruins and how they were laid out in a style of city distinct from any that I had been aware of.

Getting to the point where soon new stereo in car will hopefully mean can start over the list ordering and go into the big and hopefully final catch-up project. Especially since recent investigations and external developments will make that more possible than before.

Something on the drive home reminded me of my grandmother and, as ever, I wanted to tear my throat out so I wouldn't have to deal with it. I think I thought of aiming for a collision again but of course I won't, I wouldn't. But how am I supposed to make sense of her being gone? I wish I could cry, for her, for my cousin. Even for Terry Pratchett whose words meant so much to me growing up (she once bought me one of his books as a child and I don't think she ever knew how much I loved that book). But I can never seem to grieve properly. There is always something taking precedence - maintaining a good face at work; school; getting home without killing myself. I fear that someday I will have time to grieve and the window will have passed, I will not feel it any more or need it.

Again and again and again.

Today is always wasted.

I watched some things. Part 3 of the Doctor Who serial Marco Polo, I think. Did not pay a lot of attention to it or follow what was happening, so what was the point in watching that again when I could have been doing something useful? Episode 38 of Galaxy Express 999, of which I wanted to say something about how repetitive that show is but this time it actually did something a bit different, showing a bit more of the workings of the interstellar railway line. Some episode of Scott & Bailey in the background, which I suppose I keep up more by inertia than anything else. I wish I had the time and the will and the focus to - if I am going to watch something - actually watch it and pay attention and think about it. I pressure myself too much to get through things and so cannot appreciate them.

School is stress. I am sure I am going to fail. I am always sure, and always sure that this time I really am. Of course last time, over the summer, I actually did, which means I am on academic probation and definitely have to pass this class to escape penalty. And I am doing so badly with it. I very much need to focus and not be social, to push through being tired when not at work. Today I tried to get progress on my assignment, the last one that will determine my grade, and mostly ended up wrestling with bibliographic tools before giving up and doing it the old-fashioned way. Insofar as using style settings in a modern office suite can be considered old-fashioned.

But at least I have done something. I have made some progress on the readings and entered some information into the document, so that is technically progress. I need to make this into my life somehow if I am to succeed, but I hate it already and thoroughly.

Been leaving lots of journal entries unpublished of recent, as the day escapes me. I wonder if I will ever publish them?

aesmael: (writing things down)

[there's some references at the end of this journal post because school and I felt like practicing]

Lasering this morning. Daring to hope I might be done after this round, in half a year. That would not be too long a time. Little bit frustrating that I took up a desire and occasional accomplishment of morning walks right around when I am experienced a laser-induced need to avoid UV exposure, so I look forward to the banishing of one of those duelling tensions.

Took a while to find where the shopping centre bookshop had removed itself to, then visited a few times on my outing. I don't buy books so often and when I do it is seldom off-line (the state of book prices in Australia is perhaps best described as 'exorbitant') but it was lovely to reacquaint myself a bit with the state of paper books as art objects.

Saw a beautiful edition of Mockingjay in passing. Lots of lovely editions of The Hobbit. Someone has decided to give all Brandon Sanderson's books a consistent look across settings and series; that shelf was a sight to see, so unexpectedly uniform. Robin Hobb's books are still in those beautiful, shiny covers that make me long to give over my copies to charity or second-hand, just to replace and see something so pretty on my shelves (too expensive, too frivolous, maybe someday...). The cover of Alastair Reynolds' On the Steel Breeze clashed weirdly with Blue Remembered Earth, as if they didn't belong together, so strange. Different editions or publishers or sharp change of art direction I suppose.

There were some boxed sets of the Song of Ice and Fire books which looked nice, though it would be nice to be able to do without having a permanent reminder of the television series affixed to the covers. Makes me wonder what looks the books may have when that series is complete. The Warriors anthology in three parts highlighting to me the absence of the Vandermeers time travel anthology since the last time I visited. The new edition of The Ice Dragon is lovely, the illustrations and the cover and the texture. Pretty book, book as art in itself. Could not find The World of Ice and Fire at first, the particular book I wanted to take a look at. Found it elsewhere after a bit, with all the trendy books. But I ended up not daring to take more than a quick flip through it, maybe I was scared of being thought a serious customer.

Looked for, could not find any copy of Kameron Hurley's The Mirror Empire. Did smile to see that, between times I visited the books, someone seems to have bought a copy of Ancillary Justice. Colours a bit too bright and busy and non-representational feeling for me on that one, but that's okay. Hoping it found a good home.

When I got home, was pleasantly surprised to see the set of dice I had ordered had arrived. I've never had dice before apart from the ones you get in department store board games and these are a delightful dusty green with gold numbers, fun even just to look at. I enjoyed taking some time to feel them and start learning which ones are which. Handy because now I can use them for pen and paper RPGs instead of using online rollers, and I've learned this difference matters to some (many?) who play such games.

Yesterday, on part of the way home listened to an episode of Ockham's Razor on cohabiting with wildlife in Australia. Was prepared to be disappointed, envisioning a lack of suggestion that perhaps people and society change their ways in order to minimise conflict and adjust expectations of what is acceptable. Ended up being mostly pleasantly surprised for the most part although perhaps I had set my standards excessively low. NB: a remark about dingo purity is potentially outdated.

Listened to an episode of Escape Pod through lunch. The story, "Shadowboxer", was okay but my main point of interest was how this story's threads weave with Death Note. If Kira's power were inherent, if he were of the USA and held as their instrument. Well, but I thought it was okay. Not inclined to launch into a lengthy criticism at this time. Judging by the comments many others found it much more strongly resonant. This was also the second consecutive podcast to reference research into intercessory prayer, although "Shadowboxer" claimed a near opposite outcome to that reported by Are We Alone? Big Picture Science.

That episode was rather fascinating in itself, covering language and power and other related aspects of headology. The general thrust of the episode I'd seen before elsewhere but, for example, I didn't know that the Curse of the Bambino in baseball was actually technically a jinx! Also appreciated the line of continuity drawn with European-derived cultures and others, and the explicit disclaiming that curses are not a matter of supposed primitiveness. Potential listeners should be advised that experiments are described wherein harm was done to animals, including death in some cases.

Finally from earlier in the week, a two-part program from All In The Mind on mental health in Indigenous Australian communities and approaches featuring storytelling and community involvement. I've little to say on the content itself, mentioned mainly in case of interest from others.

Except, a remark near the beginning of the first episode by the presenter: "Addressing mental illness is a vital component of the healing process for Aboriginal Australians". I found that rather incensing. They need healing? THEY need healing!? We got sickness running so deep we think it's a healthy way of being, to believe it's right and just and good to do what we do to people, to genocide or force it on them and try to make them sick too. That is what we need healing of, that splinter of ice in our collective heart.

Of course the indigenous people of Australia do need healing of the hurt done to them, but not I think in the manner implied by that framing, of necessary reconciliation to the pre-eminence of white society upon their land. That is... not it.


Bentley, M. (Producer). (2006, June 14). Skeptical Sunday: Curses!. Big Picture Science Audio. Retrieved from

Di Filippo, P. (Author). (2006, June 15). EP058: Shadowboxer. Escape Pod Audio. Retrieved from

Malcolm, L. (Presenter). (2006, June 10). Aboriginal mental health part 1 - Tiwi Islands. All In The Mind Audio. Retrieved from

Malcolm, L. (Presenter). (2006, June 17). The Long Grassers' legacy - Aboriginal mental health part 2. All In The Mind. Retrieved from

Outred, J. (2014, April 15). Dingo declared a separate species.Australian Geographic. Retrieved from

Temby, I. (Speaker). (2006, June 11). Wild neighbours. Ockham's Razor Audio. Retrieved from
aesmael: (just people)

A thing I just saw reminded me of an interview I listened to [there is a transcript available at the link] on All in the Mind a couple of days ago. They were talking to a psychiatrist / historian who had done research into gender and mental health. Apparently, a study he conducted had shown a shift in how our society conceptualised depression from the 1980s onward. A split, where women are perceived as having difficulties with housework, with socialisation, with their love lives, while men are perceived as having difficulties with work and hobbies but not so much the mention of feelings.

And a subsequent study showing a parallel trend over the same span in the notes they record about their patients. Changes in what we regard depression as being. He did not draw a conclusion as to A causing B, or vice versa, or any thing although I certainly have my opinions on which.

Toward the end of the interview, also noting research that black men are strongly overrepresented in diagnoses of schizophrenia, and that this data casts doubt on the prevailing model of it as a genetic illness, suggesting again a large social component.

[disclaimer that I am not presenting this as new or shocking stuff, but as something I listened to and found interesting enough to talk about]

aesmael: (tricicat)

Listening to an episode of The Philosopher's Zone this morning, The Sorites Paradox. I haven't listened to the whole episode yet but was struck by the guest Dominic Hyde's explanation of what a paradox is.

All paradoxes are characterised by the following general set of features: that we proceed by apparently valid reasoning, that is, apparently good reasoning, from apparently true assumptions to an apparently absurd conclusion.

This shed a lot of light for me, as I had previously believed that for a paradox to properly be a paradox it must be self-contradictory. But with the definition given here then perhaps I was mistaken about ideas such as the Twin Paradox being misnamed as paradoxes.

aesmael: (haircut)
If I'm not listening to music for some dedicated purpose (currently, reviewing my entire collection after a drive crash for sound quality, and to then catalogue it again) I tend to prefer album shuffling over individual tracks. I have not listened to music for its own sake in a long while.

Today the spinny wheel came up on Voyageur by Enigma. I used to listen to that album a lot for uplift but again, not for a long time. So of course now I want to share a few tracks.

For the period in which I was listening this afternoon, "Boum-Boum" got to enjoy being my favourite love song (although that is the radio edit and not the album version) .

However, the two songs that nearly always bring tears to my eyes are "Total Eclipse of the Moon" and "Following the Sun".

Enigma has always tended to resonate strongly with me, especially when I am low.
aesmael: (writing things down)
Listened to this at the end of my commute home yesterday, found it striking and beautiful. Just in case you were wondering where my taste in music (partly) lies:
aesmael: (probably quantum)

Whenever I listen to it I almost always conclude I like metal better without the singing (my recurring joke is “The intro was great, they should make a whole song of that.”). Which, in fact, was a lot of what put me off even trying it for so long - the stereotype of a bunch of men shouting into a microphone so hoarsely as to be incomprehensible.

Maybe what I really want that often my experience of metal almost gives is ‘chamber music for rock band’. This might sound like I dislike metal as musical genre / set of genres but so far I have liked a fair chunk of what I have tried [1]. What I am realising at the moment is that a lot of the more melodic(?) strains of metal come across to me as more… musically dense(?) than a lot of the rock music I listen to. So I am possibly responding to it more as if I were listening to art music than to pop music, and then from that perspective lyrics, especially performed harshly, will interfere with what I am trying to get out of it [2].

So I feel like I understand a bit better what I think of metal now.

But sometimes vocals make a pleasing line too. As I write this am trying out the album Paradise Lost by Symphony X and enjoying it a great deal. Assuming nothing happens to change my mind, I should add their name to a list and eventually go buy their albums.

[1] So far what suits me best is the region where it crosses over into drone music. Sun O))) does exceedingly pleasant things to me.

[2] Possibly for similar reasons I am not in the habit of enjoying opera, possibly not.

aesmael: (Electric Waves)

Finished listening to the first year of Planetary Radio, into the second year. Will miss the old theme music which sounded to me a lot like music from the SNES version of SimCity

Although the new theme puts me a lot in mind of Unicron's theme from the 1986 Transformer's theme, so that also amuses.

Still finding it remarkable how much things have changed or been anticipated since that first year of the show.

The Galileo mission was at the end of its mission at Jupiter and, during the, plunged into the planet's atmosphere to avoid contaminating Europa. They had project manager Claudia Alexander on the show to talk about this, and mentioned her next mission waiting to launch, Rosetta - which is just now nearing its target 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

They had Alan Stern on, anticipating the future launch of New Horizons (arriving at Pluto next year), and the rumours that some astronomers think maybe Pluto should no longer be counted a planet. Of the radio show: "Let's hope we're still doing this when you arrive" - looks likely from 2014.

They had Marc Rayman on, talking about recently concluded mission Deep Space 1 and the prospect of using technology tested then on a future mission, Dawn, which has now visited Vesta and will be arriving at Ceres next year.

The two Mars Exploration Rovers Opportunity (still functioning more than a decade later) and Spirit were launched and en route to Mars for their 90 sol mission.

Low key anticipation for the arrival of Cassini the next year, and all its findings and beautiful imagery as yet unrealised.

So much change, so much, and also so much continuity. Missions anticipated at the birth of the program coming to fruition now. I wonder what else has been anticipated during its run so far, and worry the answer is not much - not much to come but what's been coming the whole time.

aesmael: (tricicat)

On the other hand, a string of stories at Podcastle left me feeling alienated, being centred as they were so strongly on US self-mythologising. A very distinct sense, which I have the privilege of experiencing relatively rarely, that I was not and never could be the audience for these stories.

The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale by Benjamin Rosenbaum is as the title suggests a fairy tale of California. More particularly of capitalism, California, and self-identified geekdom. Self-conscious quirkiness blended with corporate surrealism; there is a trans woman and a genderqueer kid in the story for what appears to be ‘people do gender non-normatively in California’ reasons. Support groups and mercenary hackers and monetising all the things.

Hotel Astarte by M. K. Hobson is a broader anthropomorphised mythology of the Three Americas - the Rural Midwest, the Business of the East, and the upstart Hollywood of the far west - and their deep magical conflicts with each other for pre-eminence or survival in the early 20th century.

These are not necessarily bad stories. Hotel Astarte especially I thought well done. But they are very much of the USA, stories told by that people of its history and its nature. ‘America’, talking about itself to itself, no space in the telling for an audience that is not on the inside, not so soaked in this mythology of the great and human nation.
aesmael: (tricicat)
Sometimes, listening to podcast fiction is a good way to find new authors. Hearing in fairly close succession For Fear of Dragons at Podcastle and then especially Amaryllis at Lightspeed Magazine, both by Carrie Vaughn, draws her to attention so that I will be keeping an eye out for her name in future as a signifier of good story.
aesmael: (haircut)

Getting ready for morning exercise, receive call from library asking me to come in and work the afternoon and evening shifts. So, change of plans. Treadmill etc. put off until tomorrow. Instead, get breakfast and switch to pre-work routine.

The 99 Episode 4: “Unbound”. Big team heroism cooperative episode. Reminds me of Captain Planet in a good way. Nice to see a show unashamedly promoting virtuousness, even if it means the villain is correspondingly evil.

Doctor Who S5E13 “The Big Bang”. Yet another 'clap your hands if you believe in fairies' ending. Very common for the show's series finales. Time travel stuff is lots of fun, rest of the story rather rubbish.

Finished listening to "Fear of Dragons". Continue to hold my opinions from yesterday. It's a tale about fear and human weakness and strength, not an attempt to realise a world. Works quite well.

Nikita S3E10 “Brave New World”. I like that they say Spy-Fi. In this case comes across as a charming bit of self-awareness.

Too tired for much else thinking. Tired and sore and stiff from work.

aesmael: (haircut)

Miserable sort of day.

Been reconsidering how I use Twitter, wondering if I should adjust my use-patterns. Structurally it does not support mindfulness.

Maybe restrict my direct use to socialising and lightheartedness. If there is any serious news or activism or science stuff, I can either write a post about it and maybe link that, or else stick to reading only. That way if I have something to say in response to something I see then I say it in a form and on a platform that supports actual commentary and not just compressed snippery.

Good alternative to spamming people with a stream of stuff they don't find interesting or even do find actively annoying. As Tess said when I brought this up with her: “Twitter is good for sharing things, light conversation, as well as short broadcasts.[...] Twitter only supports one form of interaction by design. It's not meant to be a blogging platform.”

I called a place about organising hair removal on the 18th and left a message; they still have not gotten back to me. On Monday I will try calling another place and hopefully they will answer their phone.

Thinking about this reminded me that I had put out a call for assistance in finding resources, some means of locating places that did hair removal and were known to be trans friendly but had gotten zero response. Friends and loved ones I talk to online directly did help me search out and assess places from their web presences, but my call for help itself may as well have gone into the void; no one with any knowledge of the local scene or otherwise responded, nor did anyone who doesn't know me directly pass it on. Very disheartening, very upsetting.

So I am wondering if I should try and create a website that covers at least resources for New South Wales, with information on how trans positive a given service or location may be based on people's experiences.

I don't want to do any such thing, and would rather pass it on to someone else at the first opportunity. But I got silence when I asked for someone to point me to such a thing, and I couldn't find any when I searched myself that gave me useful information, so maybe there is no such thing and there probably ought to be.

Trying to think what I would need to do in order to get it operational. Would have to secure a domain name (something that makes sense to anyone who would be looking for it), hosting, some sort of platform to actually build the thing out of.

Trying to brainstorm what sort of content would need to be covered. Obviously the thing I was originally searching for - places that provide hair removal services and trans friendliness thereof. Other doctors, endocrinologists and otherwise. Shelters; can possibly contact those and get official policy on. Official stances on the law and transitioning (discrimination protections and limitations, change of name or gender markers), participating in sport (language on that Australian Sports Commission page is not great). Having trouble thinking what else but there is probably a whole lot of stuff I am overlooking. Of course then I would need to solicit input from the same silent void I didn't get help from in order to populate a lot of this information. So maybe it is a dead end.

Probably get abandoned and come to nothing, like anything else I ever attempt.

Watched The 99 Episode 3: “Jabbar, The Powerful”. Bit amused by how the new character recruitment in this episode plays out like a conversion narrative, almost like something out of a Chick Tract. Girl who has been living on the street acquires a Noor stone and uses it to make a living for herself as an arena fighter. One of the hero characters is trying to persuade her to join them and use her powers for the good of all rather than personal gain, and ends up throwing himself in front of the pain wave generated by one of his allies in their fight (misguided attempt to help him out), and spare her its effects. To this she explicitly says no one has ever done anything nice for her before. That was what struck me as like those narratives, where the convertee has never had the subject of conversion introduced to em before, and is so amazed by the idea that ey converts on the spot.

As it turns out, this recruitment wasn't the actual pivotal point of the episode like I'd thought it was, and the story actually turns on a cliffhanger at the end. This probably explains why her joining them, despite seeming to be the focus for so much of it is actually so abrupt and leaves room for the new twist at the end.

Watched Silverwing Episode 11: “Strange Batfellows”. I was expecting this show to have the characters journeying through a variety of environments, encountering new characters and situations each time, and while there technically is that, I am surprised by how quickly it settled onto a small number of recurring antagonists who are present every time, no matter how far, fast or desperately these protagonist bats fly.

Watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Ami. Mostly we were discussing what we liked about it as a film and what we thought was well done, as a contrast to things we dislike in newer films. In this case especially newer Star Trek films. A lot in relation to how it fits in with the Hero's Journey and how Khan's and Kirk's arcs relate to each other, but also other aspects like pacing - there were plenty of slow, conversational scenes, sometimes quite tense, that there don't seem to be as many of in new films, but yet the film overall is quite fast-paced and compact. Relatively little could be trimmed without harming the impact, and there is almost no spectacle for the sake of spectacle, especially by modern standards. We also noticed a lot of details which I think neither of us had picked up on from previous viewings, such as the colours distinguishing crew departments on the uniforms under the jackets everyone was wearing, or a lot of details of facial expression. One of the best examples of the latter is Chekhov's creepy stare into space when the rest of the crew find him; it isn't clear if it's solely due to trauma or what else might be going on.

It was also just a lot of fun watching a film I actually like and getting to discuss it with Ami. So often when I watch things these days my criticisms outweigh my praise to the extent I sometimes wonder if I am still capable of enjoying things without reservation, especially new things. I still have some nitpicks with Wrath of Khan, mostly astronomy details, but for me the net balance is strong enjoyment of both story and craft.

We also touched on a few other films in our conversation, such as how if you strip away the special effects and the pseudo-philosophic deepities of The Matrix there is still a decent story underneat, well told. Or the contrast in conveyance of dramatic and narrative significance for the duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader in the original Star Wars film vs. the complete lack of same for the duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace - he's a sith, whatever that is, we're jedi, whatever that is, it's our mission to fight each other. I think that latter came up in context of the effectiveness of scenes like the Kobayashi Maru scenario at the beginning of The Wrath of Khan. We don't need a lengthy exposition on the details of the Neutral Zone or who Klingons are; it's clear from the small details that are dropped and the visuals, etc., that there is a treaty with a hostile power being violated and that's all we need to know for the scene as it plays out.

Also also, continue to very much enjoy the soundtrack. Would like to acquire soundtracks for most of the original series films someday.

I only got around to posting the diary entry I wrote in LyX today. It came out a lot better than I feared. The only clean-up I had to do was putting back in font details for emphasis (on which topic, thinking elsewhere I will switch to bold for titles and retain italics for emphasis, instead of having italics doing double duty). Biggest problem is that with LyX's focus on document structure and formatting ease I can't e.g. leave a space between my paragraphs to separate my thoughts and flit around between topics before drawing them together for organisation later. Not without delineating sections formally. So that may ultimately be an incentive for me to switch back to Notepad++ again.

Watched Grimm S2E13. Bit of humour at the beginning with the lead's friend urging him not to get into a precipitous confrontation when his phone rings and the lead - in his role as cop - is called in to investigate a quadruple homicide. His friend: “See? Your life isn't so bad”. Then he points out the location and gets “Oh, that quadruple homicide” because it is, of course, the assailants they fought off and killed at the end of the previous episode.

Episode is getting to the pointy end of the season, I think, so this one is less exceedingly aggravating with the people not talking honestly with each other when they really should be honest with each other. Or understanding that people are ensorcelled and perhaps that is a situation which should be dealt with as a magic thing rather than treating those affected as clear-minded and responsible.

Show seems to rely on being frustration-driven? As it proceeds toward a state of sensibility and communication relief at these developments is mistaken for satisfaction. Passable.

Because I missed diarying yesterday, and because in this case I find it interesting enough to do so (don't plan on doing this every time, who knows what will happen), some listening I did on my drive to / from work. Skip over the 2005 Philosopher's Zone episode on the work of Quine, as philosophy is not-so my 'thing', and being only a couple of episodes into that program I think all I am up for is listening and getting, I hope, my bearings.

Listened to an episode of Planetary Radio from December 2002 mainly interviewing a scientist behind the SETI@Home program. It was strange listening to this for the first time in 2013 and realising that at the time this originally aired I was a student of astronomy in a course that touched frequently on SETI - this radio program would have been very relevant to my studies. A sense of dislocation, perhaps, of what might have been.

I find the music they use very reminiscent of Sim City, by the way. It's cute and amusing.

On the way back I listened to the first part of a series from the Australian Music Unit on the group Continuum Sax. Tend to think of myself as someone who does not like brass instruments (their colours are too yellow-red and 'hot') but I quite liked the focal piece played in this instalment, “Dreams you might not come back from”.

Lastly was part of the Podcastle story “For Fear of Dragons” by Carrie Vaughn which, being only part-way through I couldn't say too much on. It felt woman-authored, in a textural way, touching on details and in ways which seem more characteristic of stories by women and bringing a stronger sense of personal reality to the story. Despite this it also felt more like... a 'story told in a world without dragons'? Not a story in the sense of a sequence of events happening in a self-consistent world that has developed as itself, but rather as a tale told of a fictional realm. This is no strike against it, and we have yet to see how it plays out so perhaps this feeling shall be changed.

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

It seems ABC Classic FM is broadcasting Wagner's ring cycle, with one instalment each Sunday evening. The station streams online so anyone who wants to listen is able to, if they can get the time and day right.

I have never heard Der Ring des Nibelungen before, only a couple of excerpts, so I will be listening with great curiosity. Admittedly my preferred format for opera is 'audio-visual, with subtitles' but I still want to hear this.

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

When I get a fancy into my head, generally it is very difficult not to follow through on unless so long or complicated that others may in time replace. For example: creating playlists for music by nationality of the artist or composer. And anyone who does not avail emself of escape gets to read thoughts prompted during the process. I do things like this because I am curious if anything interesting will emerge - will I on listening to these lists discern some sort of national character, or will I not? Will I agree or disagree with those ascribed by the experts on the matter? Will anything interesting turn up in the listening.

I suppose that is a reason library work appeals to me. I like devising organisational schemes and modes of presentation, and seeing if these bring interesting new perspectives on the material so arranged.

Lengthy post behind cut )

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Just been listening to Love History by Sylvie Symbiosis and remembering how much I missed her music when lost my copies. Recommended to anyone who doesn't hate electronic music and microsampling. Or, presumably, others who wouldn't enjoy. But I am enjoying lots so I assume others will too.

Her music can be had so far from Although if there are other distribution channels that would be nice to know.



July 2017

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