Bracing for Discovery

Sep. 24th, 2017 12:25 pm
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[personal profile] dewline
"Hotumn" continues in Ottawa-Gatineau. Sweat from scalp to soles is normal-abnormal right now. Sleep continues to be a luxury item by virtue of being a medical necessity.

The Invictus Games are underway in Toronto, as are the German elections, the continuing weather/climate turmoil in the Caribbean Islands, the post-quake trauma in several regions of Mexico...and on it goes. This world continues to be a busy place, defying anyone's ability to fully understand it at any one moment. I can still live with that.

The Big Event for me as a science fiction fan tonight is Star Trek: Discovery's opening episode, "The Vulcan Hello". I can't say that I'm pleased with the idea of the series being available by subscription-streaming over the Net everywhere else on the planet, but at least Canada's managed to avoid that for now via Space Channel.

Also, I'm still getting used to this being the first Trek branch-series filmed on soundstages outside the USA. In Toronto, of all places. Just over four hours away from me by passenger train. This wasn't a thing I'd ever really expected to happen. Sure, I'd imagined branch series created for every language in which Trek is watched these days in the places where those languages were most presently in use. Which was probably less than practical, even nowadays.

Not sure yet about the design aesthetics of the series, but we'll see how it goes. Looking forward to those maps they've been talking about in Lorca's ready room...


Sep. 24th, 2017 05:08 am
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[personal profile] pheloniusfriar
Twitter user @astrokatey (Katey Alatalo) just posted this in 22 parts, which I will present in bullet form here. I have heard these sorts of stories from fellow students (as a student) and from professional scientists (as a radio inteviewer). Science (and STEM in general) is supposed to be a meritocracy, and it does best when it is, but it is also a human endeavour and wrought with all the failings and successes of all human activities. As soon as privileged thinking enters the picture, the quality of the science goes down because those with privilege know they don't have to try as hard to get the same recognition of their work or careers. It just so happens that most of those with privilege are white and male (and often in the latter part of their careers). It is hard to make space for others not exactly like ourselves, but that is (imho) one of the defining aspects of civilization and civil society.
  • This article (NYT "Push for Gender Equality in Tech? Some Men Say It’s Gone Too Far") has made me super angry. Do you want to know what it is like trying to be a woman in a scientific space? Let me tell you.
  • Your teachers will start telling you when you are young that you are “not ready” for advanced math.
  • I was just lucky my mother stood up for me with that teacher. Otherwise I would not have been in calculus in high school.
  • In college, you will be in classes where your male classmates will tell you how easy the homework was. You’ll doubt yourself a lot.
  • Only to find out they were scoring Cs while you were getting As. Be ready for them to also say things like “women aren’t naturally scientists”.
  • Those same men will look at you like a possible person to date, when you just want to do your work. You learn to close yourself off.
  • Then, if you’re lucky, the president of Harvard will give a speech about women being biologically inferior in science.
  • And you’ll get to listen to your peers repeating that all around you. You get into top grad schools, are told it’s because you’re a woman.
  • You go. Then your advisor makes you uncomfortable by staring at your chest [she linked to this article: "How Sexual Harassment Halts Science"].
  • You make it clear they made you uncomfortable. So they isolate you, insult you, and try to drive out of science.
  • When it is too much, you report it to the chair. Who tells you that you are overreacting, or lying. And threatens to throw you out.
  • You put your head down and try hard as you can not to “rock the boat” after the chair did you the “favor” of letting you switch advisors.
  • The stress of merely surviving saps you of the creative energy you needed to write and advance academically.
  • AND that ex-advisor is using his platform to denigrate you and your science.
  • MIRACULOUSLY you make it out. You graduate, you get your Ph.D. and you get a postdoc.
  • You work your BUTT off to catch up to peers. Build the networks your advisor usually helps you build and manage to get good science done.
  • YOU DID IT! You got a fellowship!! You talk about your struggles. Many don’t believe you.
  • Every day, articles like the one in the New York Times come out to remind you your voice matters less than a spoiled white boy’s.
  • And those classmates and those harassers come back to your mind. And you wonder…
  • Was the cost of having the audacity to want to be an astronomer while also being a woman worth it?
  • Most women in science I know share some of my narrative. Do most men? No. They were assumed from kids to be sciencey.
  • When the day comes that vast majority of science women DO NOT have a tale like mine, then, New York Times, we can talk “biology”.

It is the two lines "the stress of merely surviving saps you of the creative energy you needed to write and advance academically" and "you work your butt off to catch up to peers and build the networks your advisor usually helps you build and manage to get good science done" that, to me, highlight why action needs to be taken to address sexism (and racism, and classism, and ableism, and...) in the sciences. Societies have huge problems with discrimination and building those walls doesn't protect it, it makes it weaker and has a huge opportunity cost (imagine if all of those people that are interested and good at things were the ones given the opportunities instead of those who are meh about the whole thing but do it because it's easy because they are privileged... that is lost opportunity for all of us). This is also why professional organizations need to up their game when it comes to taking active measures to reverse the historic inequities that exist in their respective fields: the way the system work is that no matter how well someone does in their formative years, if they are part of a marginalized group they were not permitted to do as much as their privileged peers (I am, at the moment, quite frustrated with the Canadian Association of Physicists... they are doing a poor job at addressing the institutionalized discrimination in the field of physics in Canada). Again, we are all poorer for it. If we can't get this to work in the sciences (remember? supposed meritocracy?), then what chance do we have of sorting this out in society as a whole?

Made it to the UK

Sep. 23rd, 2017 04:30 pm
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I realized how tired I was when I got to to the airport here and decided that my initial plan to take a bus tour of London was not such a good idea, and I wisely decided to head straight to Oxford. Took the Hogwarts Gatwick Express train to London's Victoria station, headed to the London Underground where I was disappointed to learn it was not a political movement (cues rimshot) and headed from Victoria Station to Paddington Station, and from there caught a train to Oxford. Definitely a good idea because I was having trouble keeping my eyes open by the time I got here. I pretty much caught all of my connections and it still took about 4 hours of travel... ugh.

The situation was not helped that in order to find where I was staying I needed to go to the Porter's Lodge at St. John's College in Oxford. This process was impeded by a complete and utter lack of any signage or guidance. I was reasonably sure I was close to it, but to find it I basically pushed open a massive fortress door (which was mysteriously unlocked, and which I saw people occasionally wander out of as I stood on the sidewalk trying to get my UK phone plan to works... note: that remains a work in progress) and wandered into an empty courtyard and meandered into another courtyard and randomly went into a doorway to another area where I saw an open door to something that looked like an office and went in... and there it was (there were a lot of other possibilities for where I could have gone, it was extremely lucky that I "zen navigated" my way to the right place... if nothing else, I would have asked anyone I found for help). I paid for my flat (in advance... thank goodness my Canadian bank card worked, it is supposed to work like Visa debit card and did) got the keys and fobs and set out to find the place, dragging my luggage behind me... it was walking distance, but further than I expected by a little bit. I got in (hauled everything up three flights of stairs). You walk in the door and there is a vestibule with a light switch and two doors leading off of it in opposite directions. In one direction is a living room with a chair, a small couch, a foldable dining table, wall shelving, a desk, a small cabinet, and what was a fireplace (now sealed up). Off the living room is another door that leads to a small kitchen with stove, small fridge, microwave, toaster, sink, cupboards above and below with plates, cookware, etc.. Going the other direction from the vestibule is the bedroom with a queen sized bed, bedside tables with lamps, and a little closet with an ironing board, iron, vacuum, etc.. From the bedroom is another door and a fairly large bathroom with toilet, sink, and shower. It is far from luxurious, but it is certainly more spacious than a hotel room (or hostel room, which is where I was originally supposed to be staying... there is a private hostel for visitors to the facilities in Harwell, but it was full so one of the physicists from Oxford was able to get me this flat I am in now).

It was late afternoon, and I went out for dinner. A lot of the places nearby that looked promising were actual British pubs, and by that I mean I could get beer, but not really anything in the way of food from what I could see (none of the customers had anything but pints). I ended up going to what looked like a chain restaurant ( because they had what looked like decent food and had a menu out front. They were serving mid-afternoon tea with the trays of goodies and such, it was fun to see. Their regular menu was also available. I ordered what turned out to be a micro-brew IPA (my friend in China needs to come here and teach English... I can't understand a thing they're saying... seriously, and lol, they can't understand me one whit either!) that was very strong and bitter (I liked it, most people I know would not have) and their "Slow cooked salted pork belly" which was came with savoury apple pie, buttered green beans, mash, crackling, and red wine jus. It was better than I expected from a chain type restaurant (not a large chain, they have about two dozen locations, but still). They had a very European attitude toward bringing the bill (I had to flag my server down and make air-scribbling motions), but I was falling asleep at my table and had to get out. The good news again is that I was able to use my Canada Post prepaid Visa to pay for my meal (so that works too, which is good). I have some UK currency in my pocket, but my bank in Canada gave me 5 Pound notes that aren't accepted as currency here anymore, sigh, which is about 40% of the cash I had on me. I should be able to trade them in for valid UK currency, but will probably need some help with that because only banks will do it.

From there, I came back home (home is where I hang my hat) — via a convenience store where I bought vegetable samosas and an orange juice for a snack later — and pretty much fell asleep. I just got up am going to try to go back to sleep again soon (had a samosa, it was pretty good, and the juice) but will try to repair my shoe again with the glue I got (and brought), see if Virgin Mobile can fix the issue with my local phone plan in the UK which doesn't seem to be working, and maybe put my clothes away (and maybe even take a shower, which would be a public service at this point I'm sure).

If I wake up early enough, I might do the London hop on/hop off bus tour thing tomorrow but I'm not going to set an alarm. There is also the possibility of just doing a tour of Oxford (they have open topped double decker buses and lots to see here as well, it's quite the tourist town). I also need to figure out where to catch the private shuttle bus from Oxford to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Monday morning (I need to be there by 9:30AM, which seems quite civilized). Two shuttle tickets were waiting for me at the Porter's Lodge that had been sent by mail by my contact. The address was "Phelonius Friar, c/o The College Porter, St. John's College, St. Giles, Oxford, OX1 3JP"... seriously, this place has no actual address... you either know where it is, or you don't! Fyi, I found a little medieval door to the street (short, and studded with iron things) that is the door the area where the Porter lurks, err works that I can go to in the future if I need to. It allows access to one of the courtyards I had wandered through earlier, and has a doorbell that will summon the porter 24/7 from what I was told. It is unlocked, I was also told, until 11PM. There is absolutely no indication on or anywhere near that door or the buzzer as to what might lie behind it or what it's purpose is. I am thinking I will have to leave quite early for the shuttle bus as well... they indicate a location, but I suspect it is also a "you know where it is or you don't" sort of thing... and I don't ;).

I imagine that this is the sort of thing that goes on inside these mysterious institutions in Oxford:

Rosh Hashana 5778

Sep. 20th, 2017 02:55 pm
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[personal profile] filkerdave

Tonight at sundown marks the start of the Rosh Hashanah and the year 5778. May all of you reading this be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy, and prosperous year ahead.

לשנה טובה

Random Links, Early in the Morning

Sep. 19th, 2017 05:55 am
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[personal profile] dewline
On fictional user interface design for film and TV:

On Brexit's campaign against anti-corruption efforts (and yes, I wrote that as intended):

Discovery: In Case You Wondered

Sep. 18th, 2017 09:42 pm
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[personal profile] dewline
Since the series is going to air on Space Channel here in Canada - thank the Great Bird, the Prophets, the Grand Material Continuum, Surak and Kahless for that! - I do plan to watch the series. I do not like this "streaming-subscription" business model.

Noting the first four episode titles per
  • The Vulcan Hello
  • Battle at the Binary Stars
  • Context is for Kings
  • The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry

Some attention-getters as episode titles go, yes?

Closing Out the Weekend

Sep. 17th, 2017 09:53 pm
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[personal profile] dewline
Still. Not. Normal.
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[personal profile] dewline
I rewatched Atomic Blonde on Friday night. It made a bit more sense on the second viewing, which was good. It's not only a whodunnit, but a how- and why- as well as being a period spy/action drama. Not sure that we need a sequel to it, but that's an argument we can have in the comments.
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[personal profile] filkerdave

It pretty much kills any real social media time, especially longer-form stuff like DW. I could probably do more if I turned the computer on at night but I really try never to do that when I'm on a project. There's no reason to.

Maybe things will even out a little. I'd made a commitment to myself to write here regularly, and I haven't quite been able to do it for the past few weeks.

On the bright side, Baltimore is a nice town so far. I'm sure there are parts that aren't nice, but that's true of every city, isn't it?

Ex-Alta 1 — very impressive!

Sep. 14th, 2017 08:20 pm
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[personal profile] pheloniusfriar
Having worked on a CubeSat design team myself (I was working on the scientific payload), I know what a huge job it is. This is some pretty amazing work and some even more amazing troubleshooting and problem solving since it has been in orbit.

Space oddity: U of A satellite survives mission mishaps to capture super solar storm

Fyi, the Ex-Alta 1 website:

Note: As I have written about before, we never finished our CubeSat (it was an entry to the first Canadian Satellite Design Challenge and Carleton did not win)... just so you don't think I've actually built a satellite: I have not. Worked on one, yes; built parts of one, yes; finished one, nope.

Warning: video contains drug use and tattooed nuns in lingerie, somewhat NSFW I would say... but I found the video to be very creative and the cover version quite passable and as heartfelt as you get from these guys.

Mind you if you want to go full NSFW with The Flaming Lips, watch the video they did for their cover of The Beatles' "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" with Miley Cirus and Moby (really). I happen to think it's one of the most creative and transgressive videos I have seen this year (although it came out in 2014, I just saw it for the first time a couple of weeks ago), but it's pretty messed up in so many ways. It's on YouTube at the moment (but not The Flaming Lips' site, huh), but I don't know for how long given its content:

So many uses!

Sep. 14th, 2017 11:16 am
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[personal profile] pheloniusfriar
I have discovered today that Aurora Award trophies can also be used as earthquake detectors (the metal panels click together to make a very distinctive sound)!

While there was no actual earthquake, there is local shaking as they run steamrollers along the access road to where I live. As I could feel the subsonics rippling through the house (it resonated pretty well and actually kind of hurt my ears and definitely generated a feeling of discomfort... plus freaked out the cats), a weird clicking, almost glass-like sound would kick in a few seconds after the shaking started. When I went to investigate, the shaking would subside and the sound would stop. I finally had a long enough "run" of shaking just now to track down the source of the noise. A slight bend and the clicking sound was no more... for a while... as I write this, the shaking is so intense that it has started again. Oh, well.

Note: I have never received an Aurora Award, however I administered the awards in 1995 (at CAN•CON) and as such have a sample (unplated) award on the mantle in my living room [I was nominated for one, however I had to decline the nomination due to my involvement as a key administrator of the awards that year... too much ethics for my own good sometimes, heh].

P.S. The Aurora Award trophy is amazing... as you can see from the photo if you look through it sideways there is a maple-leaf cutout through all three panels that align. Also, from the side the tops of the panels look like the sweep of an auroral display (the photo does not show that very well). As a final wow, if you look at it from the top, the three panels form the letters "SF".

Farewell Cassini!

Sep. 14th, 2017 08:12 am
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[personal profile] pheloniusfriar
"Cassini, in some ways, represents the best of humanity. It's really a testament to our endless curiosity, our collective passion to continue exploring the world and the solar system we live in."

London bound!

Sep. 12th, 2017 05:46 pm
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[personal profile] pheloniusfriar
I also just found out today (after the previous good news email already reported on) that I will be issued with a work visa for the UK "by way of ancestry" (my grandfather was British and moved to Canada after the war, and Canada is still a Commonwealth country). It's a 5 year multi-entry visa with quite liberal requirements for working in the UK (as long as I can support myself for a reasonable period of time, I can even go to look for work rather than having to have a job in hand at the border). My employer, Carleton University here in Canada, is going to pay for my travel, lodgings, and other expenses while I'm there (along with my salary, of course), so I will just be shifting money to the local economies in the area in return for hands-on experience. It is going to be used over the next few years (presumably) to spend a few weeks at a time at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) near Oxford (in Oxfordshire) to work on the Phase II upgrades to the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN due to be installed in 2025 (at which point it will become the HL-LHC or High Luminosity LHC). Heady times! I'll be staying in a flat for visiting scientists at St. John's College at Oxford and I'm already crazy excited at just the prospect of that (I'm easily contented apparently)! It also looks like I will have a couple of days in Oxford or London to do a bit of touristy type stuff... now I just have to figure out what to do with that time... hmmmm. I'll be spending my birthday there (on a Saturday yet), which will be a marvy way of marking my having survived another year and a fine excuse to treat myself with something fun.

Without the work visa, I could not have so much as picked up a paper clip to contribute to the project (RAL is a government institution and is very strict about such things), and I would only have been able to go and observe which would have defeated the main purpose of my going there (to learn how to do this stuff so we can help going forward since it's too much work to do in one place). I was, to be honest, stressed out of my mind about the whole thing because the non-refundable airline tickets are already purchased and the UK embassy in New York has my passport as part of the application process (which could have presented a travel issue if it was not returned in time, which could have happened if the application took longer than it normally does, which is a possibility in these sorts of things). So my stress level has dropped by orders of magnitude to say the least! So, I leave for Gatwick from Ottawa on September 22 and will be returning here on October 8.

If you're in the London/Oxford area then, I'd be happy to go for a pint (or a cup of tea of that's more your speed) while I'm there :-).


Sep. 12th, 2017 09:12 am
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[personal profile] pheloniusfriar
We have received your application to graduate from Carleton University in November 2017. Your eligibility to graduate in November 2017 will be based on the published calendar requirements for the degree program stated below:

CURRENT DEGREE: Bachelor of Arts Honours
Major 1: Women's and Gender Studies

You should confirm that the status of your application to graduate indicates "PENDING" in Carleton Central. The status of PENDING will remain until Senate meets to award degrees. After Senate meets to confer degrees on October 27, 2017 the outcome of your application will be sent to your Carleton email account and the result will also be updated in Carleton Central.

At this time, your audit report should say "ALL REQUIREMENTS COMPLETED -- IN-PROGRESS COURSES USED" or "ALL REQUIREMENTS IDENTIFIED BELOW HAVE BEEN MET". If your audit does NOT show one of these statements, then there are problems to be resolved and you should review this with your departmental advisor right away.

And I just checked and my audit does, indeed, say "ALL REQUIREMENTS IDENTIFIED BELOW HAVE BEEN MET" :).

I must say that this has been quite the wild ride! This is heaven.


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September 2017


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