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Some delicious things to begin your week:

First, a wonderful story by Rachel Swirsky, to read free online. If you don't know her work, this is a great introduction. Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia on The line between art and magic is a treacherous thing.

Next, another question and answer session on writing with Ursula K. LeGuin at Book View Cafe's blog. To a young writer asking about success, she responds:

I think the word success confuses people. They get recognition mixed up with achievement, and celebrity mixed up with excellence. I rarely use the word – it confuses me. I didn’t want to be a success, I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t set out to write successful books. I tried to write good ones. 

Receiving recognition is very important to a young artist, but you may have to settle for achievement with very little recognition for a long time. You ask about me. I wrote and submitted my work to editors for six or seven years without getting anything published except a few poems in poetry magazines – as near invisibility as you can get in print. It kept me going, though. Then I got two short stories accepted within a week, one by a literary quarterly, the other by a commercial genre magazine. From then on I had some sense of where to send the next story, and began to publish more regularly, and finally placed a novel. Each publication added to my self-confidence. Growing recognition added more. But the truth is, I always had confidence in myself as a writer – I had arrogance, even. Yet I had endless times of self-doubt. I think what carried me through was simply commitment to the job. I wanted to do it. 

Talent is no good without commitment. I’ve had students who wrote very well, but weren’t willing to commit to write, to go on writing, and to go on writing better. But that’s what it takes. 

“Feeling successful” – well, that’s something you have to work out for yourself, what it means to you, how important it is. You’re quite right that very good and highly celebrated writers may not feel “successful.” Maybe they have unhappy natures, and the Nobel Prize would just depress them. Or maybe they aren’t fully satisfied with what they’ve done so far, don’t feel they’ve yet written the best book they could write. But they have the commitment that keeps them trying to do it. 

Hang in there. And don’t push it. No hurry! Writing is a lifetime job.

What is a day without a beautiful galaxy to admire?

Like other flocculent galaxies, this spectacular galaxy lacks the clearly defined, arcing structure to its spiral arms that shows up in galaxies such as Messier 101, which are called grand design spirals. ... In flocculent spirals, fluffy patches of stars and dust show up here and there throughout their discs. ... Sometimes the tufts of stars are arranged in a generally spiraling form, as with this galaxy, but illuminated star-filled regions can also appear as short or discontinuous spiral arms.

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Paleontologists Discover Oldest Known Fur Seal. The fossil was deposited in what is now the John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center, where Mr Boessenecker found it while searching through its collections. He instantly realized that it was not the small walrus Neotherium but a tiny, early fur seal. “This was very exciting as fur seals and sea lions have a limited fossil record that, up until now, extended back to about 10-12 million years ago.” “Yet we know that their fossil record must go back to around 16-17 million years ago or so, because walruses have a record reaching back that far.”

NASA Europa Mission Gets White House Approval. Europa is thought to possess an ocean of liquid water under its icy shell. During its many flybys, the Clipper would confirm and study that ocean, yielding insights about its depth, salinity and conductivity, among other characteristics.

Dairy Saturated Fats Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk. "The message from this study is that saturated fatty acids are not only different but have opposite relationships with diabetes risk," Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in Boston, Massachusetts, told Medscape Medical News. Dr. Mozaffarian is the author of a commentary that accompanies the research. "These results add to growing evidence that dairy fat might reduce insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes; benefits that might be greatest for cheese and yogurt," he writes.

Consuming oily fish could repair damaged blood vessels. "Fish oil is known to increase the release of nitric oxide from the lining of the blood vessel wall which causes relaxation of the vessel and increases blood flow. Our study shows that fish oils could be better for our heart in more ways than previously thought, decreasing damage to the lining of blood vessels and by increasing the numbers of cells which repair those linings.

Two New Jurassic Mammals Discovered in China. Early mammals were once thought to have limited ecological opportunities to diversify during the dinosaur-dominated Mesozoic era. However, Agilodocodon scansorius and Docofossor brachydactylus, and numerous other fossils – including Castorocauda, a swimming, fish-eating mammaliaform discovered in 2006 – provide strong evidence that ancestral mammals adapted to wide-ranging environments despite competition from dinosaurs.

Kinetic Insect Lamp. Korean artist U-Ram Choe uses resin, magnets, electric motors, CPU boards, and LEDs to create these amazing kinetic lamp/sculptures that are based on the morphology of insects. When switched on, the creatures light up and start gently moving
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(an occasional series of tidbits I found delightful)

Writers Sherwood Smith and Judith Tarr discuss Writing: Where history, fantasy, and science fiction intersect.


The Pomegranate Architect“: A previously unpublished essay by Ray Bradbury

Asteroid M44 streaks across the night sky. On Monday, January 26, well-tracked asteroid 2004 BL86 made its closest approach, a mere 1.2 million kilometers from our fair planet. That's about 3.1 times the Earth-Moon distance or 4 light-seconds away. 


Vesta is the second most massive body in the asteroid beltsurpassed only by Ceres, which is classified as a dwarf planet... and other cool stuff about Vesta

Barns Are Painted Red Because of the Physics of Dying Stars Red ochre—Fe2O3—is a simple compound of iron and oxygen that absorbs yellow, green and blue light and appears red. It’s what makes red paint red. It’s really cheap because it’s really plentiful. And it’s really plentiful because of nuclear fusion in dying stars

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Keep the money in the family in which Nicola Griffith (an amazing writer!) praises Book View Cafe for its innovative book publishing. Which, if you follow this and my blog, you already knew. Why should you buy ebooks from us, when it means a few extra minutes sideloading them into your ereader or tablet? Because not only are they great reads, but a whopping 95% of the proceeds go to the author.

A cool Lagoon for a hot summer night. "The Lagoon Nebula, also called M8 and NGC 6523, represents a huge area of star formation, lying in the constellation of Sagittarius."

Tentacled, Underwater Robot to Explore Tight Places. The technology is very nifty, but I simply could not resist the headline. My mind, interesting things with it.

If asteroid's timing had been different, dinosaurs might still exist. Is there a galactic conspiracy to prevent dinosaurs from evolving into space-faring races? "Call it Murphy’s law of ecology: The environmental upheaval at the time could not have killed the dinosaurs on its own -- but it made them much easier to kill off when an asteroid hit. A few million years earlier, when the food web was stronger, or later, when new species could have evolved, some of them might have survived such an impact -- and the world could have been a very different place."

Generation of Tanners See Spike in Deadly Melanoma. as in... "200 percent jump in deadly melanoma cases since 1973."

This from Reuters -- is this for real or have we stumbled into a rerun of Outbreak?: A Woman With Ebola Escaped Quarantine And Is On The Run In A City Of 1 Million. According to the report, her family stormed the hospital where the patient was in an isolation ward after testing positive for Ebola, and carried her away.

Now this update from BBC: Ebola outbreak: Sierra Leone escaped patient dies after turning herself in. It's for real, and countries like Sierra Leone are utterly unprepared to deal with Ebola.
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Bats use polarized light to set internal compass, say scientists. The greater mouse-eared bat uses polarized light patterns at sunset to calibrate an internal compass, say researchers. This helps them travel long distances at night. How cool is that??

Punishment affects both the dog and the owner. The effect of using coercive methods may have other unsuspected consequences: it may also impact  the person inflicting the punishment. It’s likely that how we interpret our dog’s behavior directly affects how we think and feel about him, but also, how we relate to other people.

Top Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone contracts virus. Khan, 39 years old, is one of many health care workers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who has contracted the disease as a result of firsthand involvement. Though health workers in the region are required to be thoroughly covered in protective gear, many who are tending to the ill have contracted the virus. A BBC reporter at a clinic in Freetown in Sierra Leone said dozens of nurses at a government hospital went on strike on Monday after three health care works died from suspected Ebola infections.

Researchers identify more than 80 new genes linked to schizophrenia. In what is deemed the largest ever molecular genetic study of schizophrenia, a team of international researchers has pinpointed 108 genes linked to the condition - 83 of which are newly discovered - that may help identify its causes and pave the way for new treatments.
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Squid Nebula: "Recently discovered by French astro-imager Nicolas Outters, the remarkable nebula's bipolar shape and emission are consistent with it being a planetary nebula, the gaseous shroud of a dying sun-like star, but its actual distance and origin are unknown."

Jane Eyre as the ultimate Mary Sue? "We usually mock the Mary Sue character and deride the author for it, because it’s evidence of wish fulfillment, and wish fulfillment is considered weakness. But Jane Eyre shows how what has become cliche was once a powerful, emotional, classical powerhouse."

Examining the Growth of the ‘Spiritual but Not Religious’ Not surprisingly, clergy don't think very highly of it, but the "new metaphysicals" account for 7 percent of all Americans, a bigger group than atheists, and way bigger than Jews, Muslims or Episcopalians.
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Romance tropes Author Mindy Klasky has put together a compendium of tropes that are not limited to romance novels Which ones are your favorites -- or will make you hurl a book against the nearest breakable objects?

How Headlines Lie. When you read Justices Say Utah Doesn't Have to Recognize Gay Marriages, you'd think the ban was being upheld, right? Wrong! Read on... Bad New York Times! No doughnut!

HPV Test Beats Pap Smear in Gauging Cervical Cancer Risk, Study Finds

Book View Cafe's Sara Stamey on Where characters come from - I love how different we writers are and love learning from one another.

Experts map deep magma reservoir below Washington's Mt. Rainier How cool -- er, hot -- is that?
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It's funny how your mind will latch on to some (perhaps) minor aspect of loss -- in this case, the [link salad] that [ profile] jaylake used to post just about every day. I didn't see Jay in person often, only at conventions, and I don't go to many of those. But he was a presence in my life, not only with the links to fascinating, hilarious, infuriating topics, but his thoughtful remarks.

In honor of Jay, here are a few links:

D. B. Jackson: On Plotting — Keeping Things Fresh Jackson is the author of the Thieftaker series -- a magic practitioner in pre-Revolutionary Boston. Engaging books, and his series of essays on writing craft are wonderful.

Dog hailed as hero for alerting deaf boy to fire A couple of thoughts: one is that any breed of dog, in this case a pit bull, can be a wonderful companion; the other is awe at how symbiotic humans and dogs are. We've been watching the NOVA program "Decoding Dogs" on, among other things, how humans and dogs co-evolved.

Decoding Dogs. Great video, about an hour long. Cool research finding: both humans and dogs shift their gazes to the left when looking at a human face. Apparently, human emotions are more accurately displayed on that side of the face.

Studies See New Risks for Cholesterol Drug Niacin - looks like niacin (over the counter and prescription formulations like Niaspan) not only don't protect patients from cardiovascular events (aka heart attacks) but are associated with an increased risk of death. So much for "it's a vitamin, so it's safe."

520 Million-Year-Old Sea Monster With Preserved Brain Unearthed What is a day without paleontological goodness?


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Deborah J. Ross

May 2017

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