I haven’t posted as much recently as I would have liked to, but it’s that season again. Not the holiday season, but the cold/flu season. With three kids in school and my dear hubby out at work almost every day, the carnival of assaults on my immune system is in full swing. Most of the time I’m a pretty healthy person, bad habits notwithstanding. But almost every time I’ve caught any kind of cold in the last so many years, it’s gone right into my sinuses and taken up residence. And almost every spring and fall I get my share of bugs. This is one of those times. I’m certainly not as sick as I could be; I’m up on my feet and puttering at the housework, but my focus for things like writing is simply lacking.
I do have some plans for upcoming posts I thought I would share with you in the meantime. First, I’ll be reviewing one of the books by Cory Doctorow that I’ve read recently, most likely Little Brother, though I’ve enjoyed so many of his works. Another topic I want to cover soon is Net Neutrality, because I feel protecting the open internet is vital to our freedoms of speech, thought and trade. When the ‘Net was first created, no one could have imagined what it would be useful for. And I think we have only just begun to see what the free flow of information can do for us as a global people. I was born just shortly before ARPANET was introduced to the public. The Internet and I grew up as childhood friends, and I would hate to see it squeezed and shredded by corporate interests and government mismanagement into a phantom of what it could be.
I’m following the responses to NASA’s arsenic-loving bacteria story with interest. (Read my article here) The skepticism I’m hearing from other scientists really doesn’t surprise me. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” as Carl Sagan so beautifully put it. It will take the work of many more scientists and independent researchers to verify what Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her team believe they have observed. Whichever way it goes, we should learn from it, but I am hopeful that their initial theories will bear scrutiny. It’s a really exciting potential. And as an amusing aside, I heard that the team’s name for their discovery, GFAJ-1 stands for “Give Felisa A Job” which really tickles my funny bone. ( Wall Street Journal article )
With luck I’ll be well and back to posting more soon!
I want to share a new site I learned about through a New York Times article. The site is called Figment, and it was officially announced yesterday. Figment is a community for teens who enjoy writing and reading. It provides a social environment to encourage sharing whatever they are creating. There is poetry, non-fiction, fiction and serial works from just about any genre you can imagine. The site is well designed and easy to navigate. Figment does not gain the rights to your works when you post them and you can remove your postings if you so desire.
I have always loved reading and started writing my own stories when I was young. I wish I could have had a community like this to share my writing with others. I think sites like these could really help teens find friends and supporters. It can be difficult for creative teens in school; I remember how other kids would often tease me for my writing and art, and I know finding a community of like-minded souls to share my troubles with would have made a huge difference in how isolated I felt as a kid. The Internet can be a wonderful tool for bringing people together, and I love seeing how different groups of people create these shared spaces on the Net.
I hope you enjoy checking Figment out, and feel free to share any other great writing or teen communities you may enjoy in the comments below.
For the weekends I may not write as much, so I thought I’d just share something quick and entertaining for a cold cloudy Saturday. A good friend linked this blog full of wonderful memories called Things 90s Kids Realize. I am not a child of the 90s, but two of my kids are, and I found a lot of laughs and memories flipping through the posts here. It’s full of great shows, books, movies and more. There’s some great observations and surprises to learn, and now there’s a ton of great old stuff I want to track down to watch again. Thanks Netflix and Hulu, I’m thinking I just might kick my cable to the curb soon, it really doesn’t entertain me half as well.
Rachel Anne Ridge at HomeSanctuary.com has announced her new book “Company Girl” just in time for Christmas! I’ve been reading Rachel’s blog for quite a while and she shares wonderfully creative articles about her home, business and life every week. Her “company girl” idea, as I understand it, expresses how everything in life is more fun when we have someone joining in alongside us, just “for company”. Her blog lets people from all over join her in that exact spirit, sharing friendship and sisterhood across the Net. What she does with her art is amazing, and I’m sure this book will be beautiful!
Mono Lake, California (Photo Credit: Michael Gäbler)
NASA announced an exciting discovery today at NASA TV. I wasn’t able to watch the entire thing, but it was amazing. Felisa Wolfe-Simon, an Astrobiology research fellow at Menlo Park, shared her findings about a microbe called GFAJ-1 in the family of Gammaproteobacteria. This microbe is able to live in a phosphorous-free environment by substituting arsenic for phosphorous within its biological systems, even within the backbone of its DNA. Never before have we seen an organism capable of living without one of the six primary elements of life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur).
Felisa Wolfe-Simon’s team discovered this bacteria living in Mono Lake, California, but its remarkable abilities really force us to re-evaluate our study and search for life both on our planet and within the greater universe. As a huge fan of both science and science fiction, I’ve always felt it was somewhat naïve for us to assume that life would only arise under the exact conditions that we ourselves find comfortable. I expect that as our ability to explore outer planets improves, we will discover many more surprises where living things evolve to thrive in wildly exotic environments. Studying the far reaches of our own planet such as deep-sea lava vents and toxic saline lakes will help us revise our definitions and understanding of what life can be, and I am looking forward to many more great discoveries to come.
A friend tagged me with this on FB and I thought for fun I’d share my answers here. I might move this sort of thing into an ‘about me’ section later. It was kind of hard to stop after 15, I’m sure I could keep going for days with all the characters that have inspired me over the years. Feel free to join in posting this as a note on your FB or on your blog.
Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen fictional characters (television, films, plays, books) who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what characters my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note.)
1. Lestat de Lioncourt (Interview With a Vampire, etc.)
2. Vanyel Ashkeveron (The Last Herald Mage Trilogy)
3. Dr. Who
4. Darth Maul (Star Wars)
5. Richard B. Riddick (Pitch Black, etc.)
7. Richard Cypher (Sword of Truth series)
8. Grendel – all incarnations (Grendel comics)
9. Q (Star Trek)
10. Ayla (Earth’s Children series)
11. Major Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell)
12. Animal (The Muppets)
13. Nightcrawler (X-Men comics)
14. Jarod (The Pretender)
15. River Tam (Firefly)
As amazing as computers are, there are some things they can’t do as well as human minds. Visual processing and pattern recognition happen so quickly and on such an unconscious level for us that it’s practically a superpower, and it can take years to teach a computer how to even begin narrowing down false-positive matches and the like. Our scientific computer-driven tools are burying us in data that could take generations to sift through for useful discoveries. With all that in mind, I love seeing how today’s scientists are teaming up with game designers to crowd-source research to those of us with free time to give.
I’ve participated in distributed computing projects like SETI@home and BOINC off and on for years, donating processing power from my home computer to crunch data-sets for all kinds of projects and research. As satisfying as that is, it is a very impersonal kind of donation. All you need to do is install some software, choose the projects and let it run. I know my donations were valuable, but I didn’t feel very involved. The newer generation of ‘Citizen Science’ projects are putting the data into volunteer’s hands in a more direct and exciting way.
Click below to read my reviews of three Citizen Science sites I enjoy!