You know it’s just embarrassing

…when you go back and read a post and find out you got the facts wrong. And it’s in your area of study.

Modern Homo sapiens have been around for 100,000 to 200,000 years.

But the initial point still stands: Evolutionary adaptations, even if you include eugenics, takes a LOT longer than 5,000 years.

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SevenEves by Neal Stephenson

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22816087-seveneves

SevenEves is a near future story about how the human race would survive a sudden extinction level event (which is never really explained how that even came to be, but that’s not really the point). Not by wandering around a post-apocalyptic landscape, but how they would actually survive it in a cobbled together space program. And how they survive the near extinction of the human race (the Seven Eves a clear echo of the the Mitochondrial Eves which gave birth to Homo sapiens), which still results in the same type of social issues that trouble us today. Some things: tribalism, need to grab power, come to us from our primate ancestors and they are not going to be easy to shake, if ever. So in the backdrop of the best of mankind applied to trying to help the human race survive, you have the worst of mankind’s Machiavellian machinations that you wish, with great frustration, that characters were not so stupid to engage in, but you’re not surprised that they do because humans would so totally do that.

It had good, well rounded characters (and if one of them bears a slight resemblance to a popular physicist that is purely coincidental 😉 ). It was a good “the great will, intelligence and creativity of humanity surviving penultimate disaster” story. Complex, realistic and believable,  it included humanity’s greatest strengths as our salvation and our greatest failings as being the monkey wrench that kept being thrown into the best laid plans of mice and women for 5,000 years. So the plot kept you on your toes. There were lots of very edge-of-your-seat gripping moments and believable plot twists with a satisfying end.

The problem.

Neal Stephenson has become famous for “info dumps.” Not exposition, but page after page of related-but-unnecessary-to-the-story information he finds fascinating. And his fans love him for it because reading his books is an educational experience.

(Though I really could have done with the torture/experiment on the live dog in Quicksilver. Between that and reading through 50 pages without a plot showing up, that was one book I never finished.)

Cool. He is a genre writer writing for a fanbase to leans towards hard SciFi. But, he is at a point where he could take a page from Andy Weir.

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18007564-the-martian?from_search=true

Excellent book! I loved it! Very fun and gripping read. Weir’s take on the “resilience of human nature” involved more in-character humor. I think humor would be necessary in a survival situation, but I digress…

The Martian and SevenEves have a basic theme in the same basic setting: A survival story set in the near future where the primary mode of transport and survival is space exploration/flight. The Martian is simpler in that it’s one guy trying to survive and SevenEves is the human race. The Martian being confined to the space program does not allow for the personal conflicts which crippled the efforts in SevenEves. But Weir could tell a space-based survival story without diverting the reader for page after page of scientific technical data that had nothing to do with the story.

SevenEves would stop for an science/technical info dump for eight pages, have half a page of dialog, then go on a further info dump for five pages. It was especially bad in the beginning as it severely stalled the story out which made wading through the first 400 pages (out of 750) a slog. Once you got past where Stephenson thought he had explained everything he possibly could, then the story really got going. The Martin got the tech across without slowing down. Or at least it was not brought to a grinding halt. Repeatedly.

If they can’t cut the info dumps in SevenEves, the least the publisher could do would be to highlight the pages for people who want to get on with the story so they know to skip them.

But despite the slog, the book is worth it. I give it four out of five stars because all the other aspects of it are done so well.

SPOILER ALERT!

Addendum: As someone who has studied physical anthropology, I don’t buy that the “Pingers” were a matter of “selective breeding.” What would become cetaceans branched off from that would lead to primate a looooong time prior, so there would be very little, if any, of their code in our DNA. It would be helluva difficult thing to bring those traits to the surface just by making babies.

Yes, homo sapiens evolve to can adapt, but not like that in 5,000 years. The comparison is made to dogs, but dogs can start breeding when they are 18 months old (they shouldn’t but they can) and have at minimum two liters a year. The average dog lives to 14, has an average litter of five puppies, that’s 125 dogs produced in it’s life, with the youngest producing as soon they hit 1.5 years. That is a LOT of generations in 5,000 years.

Meanwhile humans can’t start reproducing until menarche (first menses), sometime between 10 and 14 years (again, like dogs they should not as early pregnancies are dangerous) but they can. They can also only have one kid a year, with 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage. If a woman is doing nothing but pumping out babies, maybe 20 if they are lucky, in their lifetime. So far fewer generations and fewer members per generation to play around in the genome.

They have found that the Canis lupus genome has a dizzying variety of genotypes that creates a wide variety of phenotypes (as anyone who has looked at a picture of Great Dane and a Chihuahua can see) which makes Canis lupus one of the most adaptable species on earth. In the wild, there have been Polynesian island strains of dogs, Central and South American jungle strains of dogs, Australian outback strains of dogs, African Savannah strains of dogs. And of course Wolves and Coyotes of North American temperate zones to deserts. All very different than one another, all without human intervention.

Meanwhile Homo sapiens have been around for a 100,000 to 200,000 years. We have seen very little genetic adaptation to living in different environments. We’ve had civilization for over 5,000 years and almost no sign of physical adaptation to the very different living conditions than our hunter-gather ancestors.

So the “Pingers” with their grey mottled skin and webbed fingers and blubbler, their massively extended breath holding, etc. I can’t buy without genetic engineering. Which is possible without the “Diggers” not knowing about it. The Pingers came from a government funded alternate plan B for the survival of the human race. The Diggers were just a group of regular survivalists who adapted a mine. (Though the book should mention they there are millions of cave systems and mines all over the Earth so this group in Alaska can’t be only ones that thought of doing that.)

But this is total nit-picking with no bearing on the believability of the story. I guess we all have our niches.

It is a great story of the determination of the human race to survive at an individual and species level.

Do Not Thwart the Will of the Gods

I recently switched positions in the University. I could not survive on what I was making in my old position and the state refused, for over seven years, to give merit-based raises or cost of living increases to all state employees and the retirees living off the state pension. It was only this year (and election year) that they finally gave us a 2.5% cost of living increase.

State employees and pensioners are still making 7% below the cost of living in this state. (So whenever someone talks about “fat cat government employees,” I tend to get stabby.)

I got a job offer at a higher salary band in another division of the college. It looked like a good situation, but just in case, I consulted my Tarot cards.

Now I know many of my atheist, agnostic and monotheistic religion readers will scoff at this, but I’m a Neo-Pagan. It’s what I do.

In response to “Should I take this job?” that cards said “No.” (Simple three line “Yes/No” reading.)

I really needed the money. I have been pet sitting, selling off my comics, going around the college collecting old textbooks and selling them. Trying to sell antique books and furniture. I was barely scrapping by and I had Navient (Sallie Mae’s collection agency) breathing down my neck. So despite divine advice, I took the job.

It’s been a  nightmare ever since. First of all, I screwed over my old department as they lost my position when I vacated it (the college would not allow them to hire a person to replace me) which dumped a load of work on the lead admin and the part time worker. I feel horrible about that. Training here has been confusing, which is not helped by the lack of information and organization in the department. I have been very frustrated at point because people would ask for thing that I had no idea I was supposed to give them. No one told me. And I would express myself. Either by being snappy, being silent, or by being loud. Not a the best choices, not the most professional of demeanors, but this place is a mess. And I have been taking any anti-anxiety meds in the middle of the day and having a drink every night just to unwind from this place.

And then someone told an outright lie about what I said to someone else. The person instantly recanted when confronted in front of my boss. Since then, her and my dealings have been nothing but professional and cordial. I treated it as a misunderstanding and let it go.

Out side of work, I got into an accident that took off my passenger side review mirror, which, while cheap, took over a week to replace. While in the rental provided by my insurance, I got pulled over because while my own car had the headlights on all the time for safety, the 2017 Sonata did not. So I was driving at night without headlights.

When I got my car back, I was pulled over this morning because neither of my brake lights were working.

During all this, Navient started calling 14 times a day. No shit. Fourteen times in 24 hours. Months ago, I had sent them everything: My pay stubs, my bank statements, my budget, everything. They had *all* the information on hand of my financial situation. Yet every time I talk to them I have to go over it all again while they try to hard sell me into taking a deferment, which allows them to rack up more interest and extend the period of time they can take legal action. I refuse. Nothing is going to change in three months anyway. I am not going to suddenly get a job that pays $100K a year. I send them what I can afford to send every month (their version of an “income based payment arrangement” is to take half my monthly income, over half if I drop down a salary level). That is all I can do. I dealt with them one week. I thought I had it settled (again). And then the following week they called back from another number to trick me into picking up.  I got upset (this was in the middle of the car accident stuff, and I was being harassed)  and I raised my voice.

After getting sympathy from my boss over everything, last week, right before the holiday, I was slapped with a disciplinary letter for my temper. They included the lying incident, which really does not have anything to do with my temper or behavior, but it just spiteful way to make me look even worse, despite the fact the person who made the accusation backed off it when confronted.

Now I am being treated as a simpleton, with my boss acting as if she assumes the tasks that I know how to do I am totally ignorant off. She also likes to rush in when I’m talking to students and ask if everything is O.K..

I have never in the entire time, the seven years that I have worked at this University, gone off on a student. Not ever.

I started looking for another job weeks ago. I have applied to positions that pay less than this one because this place is just horrible. Coming here was one of the worser decisions I have ever made. And I was told it was a bad idea.

So…when getting a hint from the divine. LISTEN.

P.S. Aaaaand my alternator went. For the love of you Gods I’M SORRY!

Matthew

So how was Hurricane Matthew for me? Not a problem. I moved to NC a few years after Floyd has flooded Eastern NC, so when I picked place to live, I looked at where the floodplains were and did not move there.

However, walking the dogs was put on hold for a while as the nature reserve where I walk them flooded to about 7 feet above the trail. (I’ll add pictures of the flood water line this weekend.)

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The entrance to the nature reserve two days after Matthew. The yellow bar? That’s at arm-pit height for me. (5’7″). The flood would peak the next day.

The people in the back of my neighborhood, up against the reserve, were sweating it because the water was coming up to their back fences. Fortunately, it did not go in.

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Up against the backyards of the bottom most street n the neighborhood.

 

Many families, especially those in the farmlands, were not so lucky.

Usually NC can weather the Category 1 or 2 hurricanes we get readily. But in 1999, Hurricane Dennis had rolled through a week prior to Floyd, saturating the ground. The water had nowhere to go, so there were massive floods.

The same thing happened with Matthew, only it wasn’t another prior hurricane. For two weeks leading up to Mathew, we had nightly rains. The result was the same: The ground was completely saturated. When Mathew hit, there were massive floods. The flood water peaked about three days after Matthew rolled through as water progressively built up along the rivers.

Collection efforts to help those in need were impressive. Every group I knew, and some I had never heard of, ran drives to collect food, toiletries, clothing, bedding, etc. But there are still hundreds of families without homes.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/18/us/north-carolina-lumberton-hurricane-matthew-storm-recovery-holidays/index.html

So much of Eastern NC is low lying farmlands, it’s hard to find a home that is not in one. I hope these people can find homes soon.

Iliad

So after plowing through Fagels’ translation of the Iliad, I am struck by a few things.

1. Very visual, which makes sense if this was first an orally presented poem spoken to an audience. Helps them imagine it better. It really puts you in the sand and the blood in front of Troy.

2. Gory as hell. (And atomically accurate.) There are modern war films that are not as gory as this. This borders on horror-film levels of violence.

3. Homer names every single person on the battle field, and their father, and sometimes grandfather, even if they are just showing up to die. (And there seem lot of human-nymph marriages, so really, if you have a problem with mixed marriage now, the ancient Greeks weren’t even afraid to mate outside their species.)

This could be Homer’s way of humanizing the victims of war. But it puts me in mind of Le Morte d’Arthur in which Mallory seems to take every single “local boy makes good” legend in all of Britain, and possibly Brittany, and marry them all together in one story. (My personal favorite is Sir Tor, who shows up at Arthur’s wedding asking to be made a knight, gets sent on a quest to get a some lady’s dog back, gets made a knight and then disappears until he gets killed in when Lancelot rescues Guenevere.)

4. Achilles is a wanker. O.K., sit in your tent to prove a point, but sending Patroclus out in his place, in his armor, was a douche move.

5. Needed more Odysseus.

6. Everyone waxes on about Achilles when Ajax was the real lynch-pin/greatest warrior of the Greeks (and *without* any help from the Gods, I might add). Next to him, Achilles is a punk.

7. I now know where J.K. Rowling got the name “Scamander.”

Damnit Young Lady! Where the Hell Have You Been?

Well, first I was volunteering for Bernie Sanders because he is an actual liberal who represented me and all the people on the true Left, all the actual progressives, who have spent the last 26 years voting for the lesser of two evils.

We all saw how that went.

Being in North Carolina, the swingiest of the swing states, I could not risk a “protest vote.” I swallowed my bile and voted for the neo-liberal and let’s face it, Republican manufactured “scandals” aside, she is corrupt just like the entire system is corrupt, but at least she was experienced and sane, Clinton.

We all saw how that went.

So my commentary on the few months is:

AAAAAIGH!

AAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIGH!
GODDAMNMORTHERFUCKINGSONOFA

BITCH!

The Clinton Camp is going through the same grieving process the Sanders camp went through four months ago. Last I checked they were in the “denial” stage: Everything was all Bernie Sanders’ fault. Never mind *he* was not the one running against a sexist, racist, bigoted, arrogantly ignorant, narcissistic baboon who had difficulty with words over two syllables, and yet could not inspire people enough to win.

I mean, Trump is a sick joke. If your candidate can’t win against a sick joke, you picked the wrong candidate.

(You know all those pictures of Trump NYC Penthouse, am I the only one who ever noticed there is not a single bookcase in *any* of those pictures? Am I the only person horrified by that?)

Not that isn’t *plenty* to be horrified by.

On the upside I have been extremely pleased by my University’s response to this election and the administrations’ re-affirmation that this is a safe campus for all. I wear a safety pin, not because I’m trying to show off…well, whatever it is people accuse us of showing off, but because we have students who may need to be assured that staff members here provide a safe space.

On the downside, we’re *still* waiting for the result of our gubernatorial election. Given that McCrory not only sponsored and passed that heinous “Bathroom Bill….”

Which, BTW, the bathroom part of just the dog whistle. The real insidious nature of it is in Parts, which allows businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and Part 3, which refuses people the right to file an employment discrimination lawsuit in court.

…O.K, so not only did this epic douchebag pass this bill, he has earmarked $500 million from the state’s disaster relief fund to fight for this piece of legislative obscenity….

I mean, gee, who could have ever predicted that a state with a low lying coast and eastern floodplains that was regularly hit with hurricanes could *ever* be in need of disaster assistance?

You asshole.

I’m *really* hoping Cooper, our State Attorney General who actually knew the Constitution enough to not waste his time and our tax dollars fighting for the Same Sex Marriage ban or HB2, wins.

Otherwise, I won’t think my vocal chords can take it.

P.S. Why is it all the people so concerned with “draining the swamp” of corrupt Washington D.C. did not do so on their own? They could have by voting everyone out of the 460+ seats up for re-election in Congress…but they didn’t. And now they’re finding out that Trump’s version of “draining the swamp” is replacing the alligators with crocodiles.