xela: Photo of me (Default)
([personal profile] xela May. 22nd, 2017 11:04 pm)

Today was my birthday — and I felt pretty good about it, which hasn't often been the case in the past several years. My internal life has been getting better in a slow but steady and I think sustainable way for the past several months. Last week I got to see my dear friend Matthew — who's far more a brother to me than the biological one ever was — for the first time in five years or more. Which meant I also finally got to meet his wife and their nearly-three-year-old child — who I learned are both delightful in their own right. I've been on a bit of an endorphin high the entire week.

So I woke up today primed for good things, and by mid-afternoon three of my favorite people on Earth had phoned to wish me a happy birthday. I was on the phone with each for at least half an hour of pure delight. (Well, mostly delight: in each conversation the topic of how our public discourse has come to be dominated by trumpery reared its ugly head — and in each we agreed it was too depressing to talk about. Which has probably also contributed to making my day better, as it left me resolved to steer clear of news all day as well.)

It's the ordinary human things that make life worth living, and this year my birthday has been marked by noticing how rich I am in those. Thank you, every one.

purplecat: (lego robots)
([personal profile] purplecat May. 22nd, 2017 08:23 pm)

At the University Open House during Liverpool Light Night

For context, John Higgins was giving a talk to go with an exhibition of his art in the Victoria Gallery and Museum, where the Open House was taking place.
([syndicated profile] epod_feed May. 22nd, 2017 03:01 am)


Photographer: Patrick Wiggins
Summary Author: Patrick Wiggins

I made the discovery of this supernova on May 14, 2017, from my home observatory in Utah by comparing images I took that day with one I had taken a few years ago. It's in a spiral galaxy (NGC 6946) located about 22 million light-years from Earth -- the supernova is the bright object blinking on and off at top center. My supernova observation has now been confirmed and given the designation SN 2017aew.While far too faint to be seen with the naked eye, it can be seen with moderate-sized backyard telescopes under dark skies. As I appear to have caught it early (it did not appear on images taken two nights before), it's expected to brighten slightly for a few days before starting to fade and eventually disappearing from view in a few weeks. SN 2017aew has been determined to be a Type II supernova, meaning it was created when a star many times larger than the Sun died in a cataclysmic explosion.
([syndicated profile] epod_feed May. 21st, 2017 03:01 am)

Desert_varnish copy

Each Sunday we present a notable item from our archives. This EPOD was originally published May 22, 2003.

Provided and copyright by: Dan Brownstein

Summary author: Dan Brownstein

This photo clearly shows the interrelationship between the living environment and the geological environment. The vertical stripes are desert varnish, and the rock beneath it is sandstone (possibly Dakota formation?). Unlike moist environments where lichens thrive, dry environments favor the growth of desert varnish. While varnish can contain lichen (a symbiotic form of algae and fungi), it's mainly a type of manganese-oxidizing bacterial colony, combined with a protective layer of locally derived clay. Some desert varnish in the U.S. Southwest can be up to 10,000 years old and has been important in archeological dating. [Revised May 2017]

Related Links:

([syndicated profile] epod_feed May. 20th, 2017 03:01 am)

EPOD_EncoreTides Near Port Orford, Oregon

Today, and every Saturday Earth Science Picture of the Day invites you to rediscover favorites from the past. Saturday posts feature an EPOD that was chosen by viewers like you in our monthly Viewers' Choice polls. Join us as we look back at these intriguing and captivating images.


Photographer: Randy Scholten  

Summary AuthorRandy Scholten

December 2011 Earth Science Picture of the Day Viewer's Choice The photo above shows Brush Creek rushing across a wide beach at low tide near Port Orford, Oregon. It was snapped at the base of Humbug Mountain a little past sunset on November 28, 2011. Venus and the waxing crescent Moon are conspicuous in the twilight sky.

Times and amplitudes of the tides are primarily influenced by the alignment of the Sun and Moon. The combined gravitational pull of these bodies when the Moon is full or new create higher amplitude tides than when the Moon is in other phases. Only nine percent of the Moon was illuminated, as shown above, just three days following the onset of the new Moon. A minus 1.2 ft (0.4 m) tide (low tide) was recorded here a few hours after the photo was taken. However, during the new Moon, the low tide was considerably more extreme (referred to as the spring tide), dropping to minus 2.1 ft (0.6 m) with a tidal range of 11.1 ft (3.4 m). [Revised April 2017]

Photo Details: Nikon D700 camera; 20 mm f/2.8D wide angle Nikkor lens; 1/5 sec. exposure; f/2.8; ISO 400. Note that sunset on November 28 was at 4:47 p.m. while moonset occurred at 8:41 p.m.

kareila: (music)
([personal profile] kareila May. 19th, 2017 11:03 pm)
I've detected a mystifying new trend in scores for movie trailers: lifting a well known riff from a classic rock song, and planting it in a new context. Ahead of a screening of Guardians 2 last night, no fewer than 3 trailers used this trick. Valerian features the haunting wordless chorus from "Because" by the Beatles; Thor: Ragnarok employs the intro to "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin; and the Tom Cruise remake of The Mummy borrows the guitar lick from "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones.

Do these trends emerge purposefully from the bowels of Hollywood marketing departments, or are they some unconscious manifestation of our cultural zeitgeist?
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
([personal profile] synecdochic May. 19th, 2017 02:36 pm)
Saw the radiation oncologist this morning. (Two hour drive to NoVA, whee.) More info when I get home and have a keyboard instead of phone, but: I adore him, he's given me tons to research, he's willing to schedule me now but also says it's not house on fire urgent since it's not proceeding quickly enough to be an urgent situation (but he didn't downplay it either) and did I mention I adore him?

I feel very much better now that I know I have him, and will feel even better after seeing Mom's guy on the 30th.
([syndicated profile] epod_feed May. 19th, 2017 03:01 am)

Strom (1)

Photographer: Rod Benson

Summary Author: Rod Benson

Featured above are fossil stromatolites found along the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park, Montana. The park is made almost entirely of rocks from the Belt Formation (also known as the Belt Supergroup) - layer upon layer of sandstones, shales and carbonates from the late Precambrian Era. At that time, there were no organisms with bones or shells, so stromatolites are the only fossils that can be found in Glacier Park. Fossils of different species of stromatolites can be found in different areas of the park.

Stromatolites are mound-like, multi-layered colonies of algae (blue-green algae or cyanobacteria), and their formation has much to do with the way they change the chemistry of the shallow water where they live. The photosynthetic cyanobacteria remove carbon dioxide from the surrounding water, causing calcium carbonate to precipitate onto their slimy, mat-like colonies. Calcium carbonate, along with grains of sediment (silt, etc.), stick to the biofilm layer that covers the colonies. As the cyanobacteria continue to grow up through the sediment, a new layer forms. This process occurs over and over again, creating layered mounds, columns or sheets.

Stromatolites that lived in the Precambrian played a major role in increasing the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere of the primeval Earth (The Great Oxygenation Event). It should be noted that living stromatolites can be found today at Shark Bay in Western Australia. Photo taken on August 30, 2014.

Photo Details: Camera Maker: Panasonic; Camera Model: DMC-LX7; Focal Length: 4.7mm (35mm equivalent: 24mm); Aperture: ƒ/2.8; Exposure Time: 0.0031 s (1/320); ISO equiv: 80; Software: QuickTime 7.6.6.

siderea: (Default)
([personal profile] siderea May. 18th, 2017 06:03 pm)
On Twitter:

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump): This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!

Seth Moulton‏(@sethmoulton): As the Representative of Salem, MA, I can confirm that this is false.
jadelennox: Bad ass TOS Uhura, glaring daggers after being struck by Kahn. (uhura)
([personal profile] jadelennox May. 18th, 2017 09:09 am)
Morden: What do you want?

Vir: I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I want to look up at your lifeless eyes and wave, like this.

Press release Deep biosphere (1)

Photographer: Henrik Drake

Summary Author: Henrik Drake

The photo above features calcite crystals precipitated in response to microbial activity deep within the Earth's crust -- shown in fractured granitic rock in Sweden. These crystals (about 5 mm in height) act to provide an archive for tracking ancient microbial activity. The tweezers are included for scale.

Methane-munching microbes, an analog for extraterrestrial life, have been living in the deep biosphere for some 400 million years. The knowledge about ancient life in the environment deep under our feet is extremely scarce. In numerous cracks down to depths of 1700 m (5,577 ft) that have been partly sealed by crystals growing within them, an international team of researchers led by Dr. Henrik Drake from Linnaeus University, Sweden, have traced fundamental, ancient microbial processes, including the production and consumption of the greenhouse gas, methane. This is thus far the most extensive study on ancient microbial activity in the continental crust, and findings suggest that microbial methane formation and consumption are widespread in the bedrock here.

This new knowledge of a deep source and sink for methane calls for a re-evaluation of the carbon cycling within the vast continental crust and may even be significant in a long-term global warming perspective. Dr. Christine Heim of University of Göttingen, Germany, a co-author of the study, states that it's intriguing to find biomarkers of ancient organic remains having surface origins (land plants) preserved within calcite at such great depth. The nutrient source for the microbes at least partly seems to have been coming from the surface. This connection to the surface biosphere may explain why the marks of microbial activity abruptly disappear at around 700 to 800 m in depth. So in essence, cracks in the Earth's crust and on other planets, believed to be omnipresent, may be the perfect graveyards for past biologic activities.

Photo Details: Camera Maker: SONY; Camera Model: DSC-RX10; Lens: 24-200mm F2.8; Focal Length: 8.8mm (35mm equivalent: 24mm); Aperture: ƒ/2.8; Exposure Time: 0.017 s (1/60); ISO equiv: 125; Software: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6.8 (Windows). 


karzilla: a green fist above the word SMASH! (Default)
([staff profile] karzilla May. 17th, 2017 05:44 pm)
These will be the last office hours offered for the month of May. I'm going on vacation at the end of the month and will be back in early June.

The medium that I've chosen for scheduling office hours is a site called Sign Up Genius. It is pretty easy to use in my experience, and all of my kids' teachers use it for conferences, parties and such. You don't have to have an account on the site to sign up for time slots, which is pretty great - just give them your email address. They will send you a confirmation and a reminder, and nothing else. But if for whatever reason you have trouble claiming a time slot using that site, you can also comment here and I can take care of it for you.

I am only doing signups for a week at a time, because that's about how far in advance I can be fairly confident of my availability. Each week will start on Friday, and I'll post the signups for the following week on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Each signup slot is scheduled to run 90 minutes, but since they're non-adjacent, it's OK if we need to go longer. Anything Dreamwidth-related is fair game: we can talk about code you're writing, code you want to write but don't know how to proceed, code someone else wrote, or things that don't involve code at all (I hear such things exist). My only request is that you don't take more than two slots in a single week, to make sure there is enough of my time to go around. Of course, you're still welcome to catch me on IRC at other times if I seem to be around, and PMs are open 24/7. :)

Here's the link for my available meeting times for the seven-day period starting May 19:

purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
([personal profile] purplecat May. 17th, 2017 08:46 pm)
Reading: Still labouring my way through Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. I've had this problem with single author anthologies before that, no matter how good the individual stories, their similarity gradually makes each one seem more of a chore to get through. I gave up half way through a Jeeves and Wooster anthology for this reason. I am, at least, through the novellas now and back into a run of shorter stories.

Listening: Just finished listening to The Writers' Room podcast on Chris Boucher. I am not at all sure Boucher is pronounced the way they are pronouncing it (Bow as in "he took a bow") but I'm not entirely sure it's pronounced the way I've always pronounced it (Boo). Other than that, I've agreed with most of what they've said ("Robots of Death" is the strongest of his three stories and "Image of the Fendahl" the weakest - there are some plot oddities, particularly in Fendahl and Robots isn't really a Whodunnit much as it apes the form. It is odd that Boucher goes from an interest in AI and Robots in his first two stories to something much more traditionally in the gothic horror model in his last).

Watching: This week it has been most new Doctor Who (Oxygen) and old Doctor Who (Planet of the Daleks).
([syndicated profile] epod_feed May. 17th, 2017 03:01 am)



Photographer: Ray Boren

Summary Author: Ray Boren

The landscapes seem so very different. Yet the ridges of California’s rugged Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, about 90 miles (145 km) east of San Diego, and the glacier-carved Sierra Nevada farther north — a range renowned for scenic wonders like Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks — have a common core. Both are batholiths formed by intrusive igneous plutons that rose and cooled deep within the Earth between 80 and 220 million years ago. Due to tectonic collisions on the western fringe of North America, the rock masses eventually surfaced as what we see today as the Golden State’s arcing granite spine.

In the photo above, taken on March 27, 2017, a granite slope, shattered by weathering called exfoliation, rises above the Montezuma Valley Road (San Diego County S22), west of Borrego Springs, California. The scene sparkles with the sunny blossoms of brittlebrush (Encelia farinosa), while taller ocotillos (Fouquieria splendens), with their red tips, reach for the blue sky. After years of extreme drought, comparatively luxuriant winter and spring rains turned Anza-Borrego into a flowery wonderland. Other blooming plants ranged from desert dandelions to colorful cacti.

The Peninsular Ranges batholith of southwestern California surfaced to form Anza-Borrego’s north-south backbone. The state park — California’s largest, encompassing 600,000 acres — also includes Colorado Desert valleys, canyons, badlands, and an occasional oasis featuring fan palms (Washingtonia filifera), the only palm tree native to the Western United States. Anza-Borrego is also home to rare peninsular bighorn sheep, which give the park part of its name. Borrego is a Spanish word for sheep. In a second photo, taken on the same day and route, a ram strolls a ridgeline. Anza honors Juan Bautista de Anza, a Spanish explorer who pioneered an overland emigrant route through these mountains in 1774. 

Photo Details: Top - Camera Model: NIKON D3200; Lens: Tokina AT-X 124 AF PRO DX II (AF 12-24mm f/4); Focal Length: 24mm (35mm equivalent: 36mm); Aperture: ƒ/11.0; Exposure Time: 0.0020 s (1/500); ISO equiv: 280. Bottom - same except: Lens: Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS APO HSM; Focal Length: 500mm (35mm equivalent: 750mm); ISO equiv: 220.

I work at a clinic one day a week.

Last week, when I arrived at the clinic, I found in my mailbox a memo and some attached literature expressing Grave Concern about the Netflix original series "13 Reasons Why", due to its portrayal of suicide.

This week, as I was leaving the clinic at the end of the day, I glanced at the waiting room coffee table and saw...

The magazines in the waiting room of the MH clinic I work at, one prominently featuring a headline story on 13RW

Maybe the clinical supervisors should chat with the office manager occasionally.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
([personal profile] purplecat May. 16th, 2017 08:57 pm)
I feel curiously underwhelmed by Knock, Knock since its an extremely well-crafted story, that holds together nicely, keeps it's pacing and even manages to be about something in a quiet sort of way ((grand)parents and children, growing up and independence). I'm not sure if this is because it is so clearly stand alone and designed to be such, or because a lot of the story is basically running up and down corridors or, I don't know, something else.

Doctor Who classically, is at its best when presenting horror-lite in this fashion but this didn't feel to me quite like a Doctor Who story. Mysterious tower, notwithstanding, it isn't quite as full-blown gothic in its horror as a lot of the Hinchcliffe era since it clearly has more DNA in the teen slasher movies of the 1980s than it does in Hammer Horror. Similarly Doctor Who has only really had the option of telling stories in which the Doctor impinges upon his companion's lives in this way since the advent of the "part time" companion with the Ponds and has, perhaps wisely, used this device relatively sparingly. Both The Power of Three and The Caretaker were successful in their own ways, but they are definitely also clearly something left of field in a way this isn't.

All that said, I watched this with my mother (not a regular watcher of NuWho) and she clearly felt she had been shown something pleasantly familiar - all the better for the inclusion of David Suchet as the Landlord.

It is also hard to feel particularly churlish about the re-use of the "wooden person" effect since it looked so good. The curled wooden hair, in particular, looked stunning. However one does have a feeling that a lot of effects are being reused this season and while, as a cost saving exercise, I would prefer they re-used good effects that work than attempt to create new effects on the cheap that don't, they do seem to be re-using a lot of effects.

There's nothing wrong with this episode and a lot to like, particularly the central performances from Capaldi, Mackie and Suchet but somehow there wasn't anything here that actually made me excited.
The only I opinion I really want on this afternoon's iteration of the Great United States Garbage Fire of 'Seventeen (different from morning's!) is whatever [personal profile] marina is thinking but not saying.
([syndicated profile] epod_feed May. 16th, 2017 03:01 am)

Different types of fruit trees   Almond trees in rocky terrain (2)

Photographer: Menashe Davidson

Summary Author: Menashe Davidson

Tree WallShown above are three almond trees I observed while walking among the Eked Antiquities in Ayalon Canada Park, Israel. This fortress dates to the second century BC. The trigger for my taking this little walk was to enjoy the opening of the almonds gentle white blossoms.

At left are three ancient fruit trees found growing in and around the fortress; a fig tree, an olive tree (evergreen) and an almond tree  (from left to right). These three fruiting trees have been a staple food for humans for thousands of years and were among the first to be cultivated. Their fruit, rich in nutritional value, can be eaten fresh or preserved as dried fruit or as processed oil.


  • Almond (Amygdalus communis, family Rosaceae) - is one of the species most common in the Mediterranean woodlands of Israel. It's a deciduous tree that is among the first to flower, presaging the arrival of spring. Flowering precedes the appearance of foliage.
  • Olive (Olea europea, family Oleaceae) - an evergreen tree found across much of the Mediterranean region. It's mentioned numerous times in the Bible and is common throughout Israel.
  • Fig (Ficus carica, family Moraceae) – a deciduous tree, like the olive, is an integral part of the landscape and agriculture of the eastern Mediterranean region. Both photos taken on February 6, 2017.

Photo Details: Camera Model: NIKON D7100; Focal Length: 26mm (35mm equivalent: 39mm); Aperture: ƒ/25.0; Exposure Time: 0.010 s (1/100); ISO equiv: 250.


purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
([personal profile] purplecat May. 15th, 2017 09:28 pm)

You can't quite appreciate the full effect since I wasn't pointing the phone at the bird in question!