Science Project

Secret Shames (updated)

This morning Mr. Rowe took off for the Sycamore Hill Writer's Workshop to spend a week in the North Carolina mountains critiquing stories and all the other stuff writers do when they're in an isolated spot together (gossip, drink, generate funny anecdotes for later, etc.). For those of you not from the Land of Science Fiction and Fantasy (and, according to Wikipedia, Slipstream, which I think in this context probably just means psst, literary), there are several peer workshops in the field that have been going on for long enough that history and reputation accumulates around them–Syc Hill is one, Rio Hondo in Taos is another, Turkey City down in Austin and, created especially for novels, Blue Heaven in Ohio. Many fine writers go to these workshops (and lots of other workshops and retreats, of course). I've been to all these except Syc Hill, but this week I'm declaring myself an official Workshop Widow.

While Christopher's gone my big plans seem to be of the virtuous variety. I plan to write LOTS–in fact, I already got in 1400+ words on my new novel and finished a proofing project today–and make sure the dogs are relatively happy. That's about it.

I bring all this up because recently I identified a phenomenon. I first cottoned to the possible existence of said phenom in grad school, where I would depart for 10 day residencies. I would come home and find things like charge slips from Wing Zone and TGI FRIDAY'S (apparently, it's next to the Barnes and Noble, open late for paperback fantasy cravings). Perhaps The Da Vinci Code movie or The 300 would have been watched. Sub par beer in the recycling bin… I think you get the picture. Clearly, the mister felt the need to indulge cravings he doesn't even really have (except for the wings) while I was out of town.

I wondered if this was true of other guys when their wives/significant others are out of range. So I did an informal survey at Wiscon and turned up some unsurprising but hilarious data to suggest this is A THING. One friend, an acclaimed novelist and short story writer, confessed that he'd purchased BLIZZARD-FLAVORED Oreos* and a pound of bacon while his wife was at one of the workshops mentioned above. Another confessed that wings sounded very familiar indeed. The confessions kept on coming. 

None of the women I asked said they fit this pattern, though, because the stuff they did was stuff they'd also do normally.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I'm thinking I should strike a blow for the fairer sex and indulge in one SHAMEFUL, materially irredeemable activity per day. Things like going to see the new Twilight movie on opening night**, maybe? … I'm going to need to suggestions. They should probably be of the baby steps variety, as it just feels so … unseemly. (NO WINGS.)

Updated: See addendum below. Also, I am loving your suggestions and your confessions. It seems the ladies *do* indulge in such behavior, but I think the guys are still winning. Clearly, however, I need to feel MORE shame for my regular activities.

*So, after posting I remembered that he didn't actually buy the Blizzard Oreos, because they were too wrong. (Too wrong to exist, but that's another post–seriously, they taste like ice cream flavored with Oreos? What is this product? Who is it for?) He bought another variety of Oreos instead. And while I usually would come down on the thoughts don't equal actions side, for the purposes of this post I'm saying, contemplating the Blizzard Oreos alone is evidence! Plus, the bacon.

**These are not value judgments, but totally subjective. My SHAMEFUL materially irredeemable is someone else's Reason For Living.

Secret Shames (updated) Read More »


My favorite bit from National Book Award finalist (and rightly so) and YA nonfiction title Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith:

They borrowed some novels from the library, starting a lifelong tradition of reading together–usually Emma read to Charles while he rested from his work. Charles liked novels with happy endings, and he once wrote, "I often bless all novelists. A surprising number have been read aloud to me . . . and I like all if moderately good, and if they do not end unhappily–against which a law ought to be passed. A novel, according to my taste, does not come into the first class unless it contains some person whom one can thoroughly love, and if it be a pretty woman all the better."

I say this book is not just a book for Darwinophiles, but for anyone who has ever been in the throes of a bookish romance.

Updated: A new report looks at the possible health repercussions of Charles and Emma being first cousins on their children.

Evolved? Read More »

Still Remembering Ada

Er, I signed up to blog about women and science for Ada Lovelace Day and then … put the reminder on the wrong day on my calendar. Woe, it was yesterday. I have failed Ada utterly. AND I'm even too busy to compensate with a suitable entry today.

But, when all else fails, links. These two are shiny: Women in Science: 16 Significant Contributors, brought to your monitor by the San Diego Supercomputer Center (with a name like that, how can its world domination not be imminent?), and Yesterday and Today: The Top Women Scientists. Those pointed out, I only wish I could point you to speedy resources about today's awesome women in science. I know they are many, and hope that one day there are even more.

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Don’t Sneeze!

Aliens may already be among us! Britain's Royal Society is on the case:

One astrobiologist says the best place to look for aliens may be right here on Earth. Paul Davies of Arizona State University said Tuesday that extraterrestrial life may have found its way to this planet at several different times.

If so, Davies says, the aliens could be "right under or noses — or even in our noses."

Boy, how much do you think they hate that this story is on the wire*? Will no one take the nose ETs seriously?!

*Suspected conversation: "Why do we keep inviting Yanks to our events?" "Because they know how to say crazy enough things to ensure a wire story?"

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Weird Science

An article in today's WaPo says the Kepler telescope is detecting all kinds of fascinating things, including new "exoplanets":

For example, Kepler found a star with a small orbiting object that is hotter than the star itself. The object is too hot to be a planet but is the wrong size and density to fit any known profile for a dwarf star.

One of the five planets announced by William J. Borucki, the top scientist for the telescope, is so fluffy that "it has the density of Styrofoam," he said.

Fluffy planet!

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What About Carhenge?

Stonehenge2_2A new study has found that for centuries Stonehenge was a burial ground (perhaps also home to a drum circle or two?):

"Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium B.C. The cremation burial dating to Stonehenge’s sarsen stones phase is likely just one of many from this later period of the monument’s use and demonstrates that it was still very much a domain of the dead," Parker Pearson said in a statement.

The researchers also excavated homes nearby at Durrington Walls, which they said appeared to be seasonal homes related to Stonehenge.

Okay, I know I’m just in a goofy mood today, but I’m cracking myself up over here with seasonal homes of the dead stuff.

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The Future is Now

Can this really be a good idea?*

A "doomsday" seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened Tuesday deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.

"The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is our insurance policy," Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told delegates at the opening ceremony. "It is the Noah’s Ark for securing biological diversity for future generations."

Someone needs to do some more watching of post-apocalyptic horror movies.

*I kid. Of course, it’s a good idea. I mean, I personally have always wanted to be ruled by a WHEAT-BASED ROBOT OVERLORD.

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