Filed under: Astronomy, Brave New World, Connections, Fermi's Paradox, Galaxy Zoo, General Musings, New Horizons, Science, Science Fiction, SETI, Space, tech, Universe Today | Tags: Aliens, blogging, Communion of Dreams, exoplanets, HD164595, jim downey, Kardashev scale, Paul Gilster, radio astronomy, Science Fiction, SETI, space, technology, Wikipedia, Zelenchukskaya
An international team of scientists from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is investigating mysterious signal spikes emitting from a 6.3-billion-year-old star in the constellation Hercules—95 light years away from Earth. The implications are extraordinary and point to the possibility of a civilization far more advanced than our own.
The unusual signal was originally detected on May 15, 2015, by the Russian Academy of Science-operated RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, but was kept secret from the international community. Interstellar space reporter Paul Gilster broke the story after the researchers quietly circulated a paper announcing the detection of “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595.”
Even if it is a signal directly beamed at us, it would require a Kardashev Type I civilization (about 200 years beyond where Earth is currently). If it is just beaming off in all directions, it’s another whole magnitude of power — about a Kardashev Type II.
Yeah, I’d say it warrants paying attention to.
Filed under: Book Conservation, Brave New World, Connections, Emergency, Failure, Faith healing, Gardening, General Musings, Health, Predictions, Preparedness, Promotion, Psychic abilities, Religion, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, Travel, University of Missouri, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: atherosclerosis, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, excerpt, faith healing, finance, gardening, Habaneros, health, heart attack, jim downey, Legacy Bookbindery, legal, luck, miracles, MU, myocardial infarction, predictions, psychic abilities, religion, science, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, stent, survival, teaching, technology, tomatoes, University of Missouri
The past few months have been … eventful.
* * * * * * *
Why? What happened?
… in no particular order:
- Discovery, and subsequent treatment, of a major cardiac health problem.
- Completion of a full course of cardiac rehab.
- A substantial change in our financial situation resulting from the sale of property we owned.
- A bunch of resultant legal and investment research, planning, and changes which every adult should do but few of us ever get around to actually completing. Something about almost dying tends to focus the mind on such matters.
- A couple of extended out-of-state trips.
- My starting to train someone from the MU library staff in proper conservation techniques a couple of afternoons a week.
- A complete new computer system & software upgrade, with all the fun of transferring archives and working files.
And then there’s all the usual business of living and working. Having a couple of months of my life sucked up by dealing with the cardiac problems & treatment meant a lot of changes and trade-offs … but it sure as hell beats being dead from a massive sudden heart attack.
* * * * * * *
So, a couple weeks ago I went through and re-read the entire text of SCW to date, then started working to pick up the story again and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Here’s an excerpt from the next section:
Darnell looked out Megan’s bedroom window, across the little lane into the large field beside the Tanat. The field, where so recently cattle peacefully grazed, was now a small village of tents and temporary structures. Most prominent among them was a large marquee someone had found and brought from a nearby town. Make-shift walls had been constructed of large plastic-wrapped round bales of hay from down the road, their tough skin making them weather and even somewhat fire-resistant. The marquee was the main recovery center, where people would be brought from the church after healing, allowed to emerge from the deep sleep at their own pace.
He turned and looked at his sister, who was sitting on the side of her bed. “There’s no reason for you to get up. We can handle it. Go back to sleep.”
There was a faint blue-white shimmer to her skin which never left her now. It wasn’t like she was glowing, exactly, but more like she had a permanent echo of the healing energy which she had used so much in the past couple of weeks. She shook her head. Darnell wasn’t sure whether it was in response to his comment, or just an effort to clear away cobwebs of sleep. “It’s better if it comes from me. I’m known as the Guardian of the Shrine. That carries some official weight with the Church.”
* * * * * * *
I got my garden in late this year. No surprise, given how things went with spring and the early summer. So my tomato plants were not as far along as they could have been when the first waves of heavy storms hit in June. Since then we’ve had fairly regular poundings of storms. And it looks like the tomatoes are almost at the end of their producing for this year — a full month or so early. But between what I harvested, and extra tomatoes picked up at the farmer’s market, I’ve put up about 60 pints of chopped tomatoes. Not quite as much as I would normally like to have, but not bad considering the situation.
And my habanero plants seem to be doing OK this year. Won’t be a bumper crop, but it ain’t nothing.
* * * * * * *
The past few months have been … eventful.
And a lot of things which normally get done, didn’t. Or were handled in a more superficial way than I would usually do.
But that’s OK.
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Connections, Failure, Feedback, Humor, Predictions, Publishing, Science Fiction, tech | Tags: art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, calfskin, Communion of Dreams, goatskin, jim downey, Kickstarter, leather, Legacy Bookbindery, literature, Peter Haigh, predictions, Science Fiction, technology, WIlliamson Oak
My, how time flies …
I’m a little startled to discover that it’s been three years since I last posted about doing the leather bindings for the custom edition of Communion of Dreams. No, I know it’s been a while — but I have been giving this binding a lot of thought, so it seems like it was still a recent ‘pending’ project. I liked the idea of using the sewing structure to incorporate classic raised leather cords on the spine of the book, but I just didn’t like the sparseness of the rest of the cover design. The initial tests were OK, but the more I thought about them, the less satisfied I was with what the final product would be. The problem was that while the cords under leather gave a nice tactile effect, there wasn’t enough detail possible.
So I kept trying to figure out how to keep the relief I liked but to get more definition. I won’t go through all the different iterations of ideas I considered, but there were a lot, mostly along the lines of trying different ways of mounting different weights of cord/string or molding/engraving the board under the leather. But each approach failed to give me the definition I wanted. Worse, each one felt further and further removed from the image of the “Williamson Oak” by Peter Haigh I had used for the paperback/printed hardcover/website.
Then recently another bookbinding project got me to thinking about using something like a woodcut as a way to make an impression on a leather cover, and I realized that I had gotten so set on the idea of using the raised cords of the sewing structure as the basis for the rest of the cover texture I hadn’t considered the possibility of impressing the leather rather than trying to raise it. What would be required would be to make a plate which would press down most of the leather, leaving the design I wanted alone so that it would stand up (and out).
So that what I tried today. Here’s how I did a quick test:
That’s my high-tech, fancy “polymer plate” … also known as a plastic cutting board. I did a quick sketch on it with a marker, then carved into it using a couple of different cutting heads on a Dremel tool.
Then I mounted a piece of goatskin and a piece of calfskin onto some bookboard, got it good and damp, and then pressed it quickly in one of my book presses. Here are the results:
This was just a trial to see if my press would generate sufficient pressure, and if the plate would hold up to it. I am very happy with how well they turned out, and I learned what I need to change for the final version (such as smoothing out the surface of the plate, adding more detail and title, and — oh, yeah — reversing the image).
So, progress! Hey, it only took three years for me to get past my perceptual bias …😉
Filed under: Brave New World, Connections, Failure, Feedback, General Musings, Health, Predictions, Preparedness, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech | Tags: atherosclerosis, blogging, choice, diet, echocardiography, electrocardiography, exercise, health, jim downey, luck, privilege, science, Science Fiction, society, stent, technology, Wikipedia
I got an object lesson in privilege yesterday. My privilege.
I went in for my first session/assessment for cardiac rehab, following the stent procedure I had two weeks ago. The RN who did my assessment had been a cardiac surgery nurse, and knew her stuff. She also had all of my medical records pertaining to my procedure, and was completely familiar with my overall health and particularly my cardiac health (which, as I have mentioned previously, is actually really good).
We went through what is the normal procedure for such things: I got hooked up to a heart monitor, she checked my blood oxygenation, my blood pressure, my pulse. All were excellent. Then we went through my exercise and dietary habits in pretty thorough detail, discussing the few points where my eating habits deviate from ‘accepted medical recommendations’ (which are actually just ‘outdated medical recommendations’ such as limiting how many eggs you eat in a week to just one or two) according to the forms she had to fill out. All that was routine, and the same material I had been over with at least half a dozen other medical professionals in the last month.
Then we got into discussing just exactly what the condition of my heart now was, and what was recommended to help me improve it, post-procedure. She started out with the model heart on the desk, relating it to how my own chart compared, and complimented me again on the fact that I basically have no other evidence of atherosclerosis or plaque build-up anywhere in my heart other than the one problem section of my RCA that they stented. She said something to the effect of “genetics plays a role, but undoubtedly your regular walking every morning for the last decade has made a huge difference.”
“I’m lucky. I’ve been able to arrange my life so that I could take the time out to do that, for the last dozen years or so,” I said.
She nodded. “A wise choice.”
“Well, not one a lot of people can make. Most people can’t just schedule an hour for daily exercise. Like I said, I’m lucky. Very lucky. ”
“True,” she said. “But I always tell people that whether or not to exercise is a choice they make.”
I paused, considered, then nodded. We went on with the rest of the assessment.
Why did I hesitate? Because in that moment — in her statement of my ‘choice’ — lies a perfect summation of my privilege.
I’m a ‘virtuous patient’, in the eyes of most of the medical community. I’m a nice guy, who is well educated, professional. I exercise regularly, eat (relatively) healthily, don’t smoke at all, and rarely drink to excess. I maintain good social integration, and work to have a happy marriage and a good support network of friends. I even floss more than is probably average.
So, since I do all those things, in their eyes the quirk of a fault that is my kinked coronary artery isn’t really my fault. It’s just a small bit of bad luck. A small bit which can be forgiven, because I make a lot of ‘good’ choices about how I go through life.
But while I have indeed made a number of choices which can be considered to be virtuous, my privilege lies in having been able to make those choices. Realistically, how many people who are earning minimum wage are able to plan to go walking through their neighborhood (or at the local YMCA or city activity center or mall) every morning? How many people living in a food desert have access to plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables? How many people who are actually obese (I need to lose a good 50 – 60 pounds to be at my ideal weight), would be perceived as being lazy rather than working to maintain good health? How many people have the formal education and time to stay on top of modern medical research and discussion of best practices such that they can discuss the nuances of diet and exercise and the role it plays in cardiac rehabilitation?
I could go on and on. But I’ll refrain. For those who are already concerned with such matters, it isn’t necessary. And for those who seldom or ever consider how privilege affects health, it won’t be sufficient. However, perhaps a few people — you? — will take the opportunity that my privilege has presented to realize that how we judge the choices of others comes mostly from how we perceive them as people.
Filed under: Brave New World, Connections, General Musings, Health, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech | Tags: atherosclerosis, blogging, echocardiography, electrocardiography, health, heart attack, jim downey, luck, masculinity, miracles, myocardial infarction, science, Science Fiction, stent, technology, Wikipedia
This is a follow-up to my previous post.
I just sent the following message to my primary care doctor:
I wanted to take a moment and thank you. Your recommendation that I take an echo stress test likely saved my life.
You’ll probably get the cardiac cath results from Dr W, but it may not include an observation he made when he first examined me: that had I come to his practice for a routine exam, presenting the same symptoms I told you, he probably would not have suspected such a serious condition. But the echo stress test clearly demonstrated that there was a major problem. And that the cath procedure showed just how bad it was: 95-99% blockage in the lower part of my RCA.
The seriousness of that condition was masked by my overall/otherwise heart strength. But it could have *very* easily resulted in a serious M.I. or even death. Had you not picked up on the subtle indications we discussed, and taken the prudent step of recommending the echo stress test, my true heart condition may not have been discovered until it was far too late.
So, thank you. Your intelligence, education, and experience probably have added decades to my life.
Why am I sharing this?
Because I got extremely lucky. And I want others to benefit from that luck, and my experience, if possible.
As it turns out, the overall condition of my heart is remarkably good. The strength and efficiency of that muscle is at the very top range for normal healthy people, or at the lower end you’d find in a serious athlete. Furthermore, there are no other indications of atherosclerosis or plaque build-up.
However, due to either a genetic or developmental defect, the lower part of my RCA is badly kinked/convoluted, creating a situation where eddies in the blood circulation form, and allowing what plaque I do have in my system to accumulate, like a sandbar will develop as a result of a bend in a river. In my case, that accumulation had progressed to the point where just the slightest additional clump of plaque could have closed off the artery completely, allowing a part of my heart to die. That’s a classic heart attack, folks.
But the strength of my heart overall was such that it almost completely masked the condition of my RCA. It wasn’t until I was up to about 90% of my heart rate maximum while taking the stress test that indications of the problem surfaced. And even then, just how bad the situation was wasn’t fully known until the cath procedure was done. But when the cardiologist went in and directly observed the condition of my coronary arteries, he saw the problem. And with about 90 minutes of hard work, corrected it with a couple of long cardiac stents.
That was just three days ago. I actually left the hospital the next morning, and have been playing catch-up on things since then.
Think about that: for 90 minutes, a team of medical professionals were playing roto-rooter with the inside of a major artery of my heart. I was completely awake and unsedated through the whole thing. The next day I left the hospital, walking on my own without difficulty. This morning I got in my usual morning walk of a mile. For about another week I have to take it a little easy, to let the puncture site in my femoral artery completely heal, and for the next year I need to take blood thinners, but otherwise I don’t need extraordinary care.
That’s pretty miraculous, in my opinion. One of the everyday miracles which surround us, and which we seldom give due consideration. Stuff that not too long ago would have been considered science fiction.
Anyway, here’s my advice, though you’ve heard it before: pay attention to your body. Don’t succumb to toxic masculinity. Or, if you’re a woman, to the illusion that you’re immune. If you think that something is going on, get it checked out. A little embarrassment at being wrong beats dying.
Filed under: Art, Astronomy, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Connections, Humor, Mars, NASA, Science, Science Fiction, Space | Tags: art, Eleanor Lutz, http://tabletopwhale.com/, humor, jim downey, maps, Mars, medieval, NASA, science, Science Fiction, space
Oh, this is just delightful:
Recently I’ve been really into old maps made by medieval explorers. I thought it would be fun to use their historical design style to illustrate our current adventures into unexplored territory. So here’s my hand-drawn topographic map of Mars, complete with official landmark names and rover landing sites.
Go check out the whole thing, but here’s a glimpse of the map itself (which is much larger on the original post):
You can even support the artist and buy a copy! Quick, before they’re all gone!
HT to Margo Lynn.
Filed under: Connections, Faith healing, Flu, Health, Pandemic, Predictions, Psychic abilities, Publishing, Religion, Science Fiction, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, Communion of Dreams, Darnell Sidwell, direct publishing, fire-flu, flu, influenza, jim downey, Llangelynnin, pandemic, Science Fiction, snowdoniaguide.com, St. Cybi's Well, travel, video, Wales, writing
As I noted I probably would a little over a week ago, I’ve just wrapped up work on Chapter Fourteen: Llangelynnin of St Cybi’s Well. It’s a long chapter — twice as long as most of the chapters are — and a pivotal one, since it includes the first instance of the faith healing/psychic abilities as referenced in Communion of Dreams. Here’s a critical passage, which will resonate for those who have read CoD already, where Darnell Sidwell’s sister Megan first encounters the healing energy just as the fire-flu is becoming a pandemic:
She stepped into the small room of the well, her arms opening wide, her face lifting to the heavens. It was indeed as though she were drinking in the light he still saw there, or perhaps like she was drinking in rain as it fell. She stood thus for a long minute, perhaps two. Then slowly she knelt before the opening of the well, her hands coming together and plunging into the cold, still water. The light filling the small space seemed to swirl around, coalescing into her cupped hands as she raised them out of Celynin’s Well.
Darnell stepped inside the small roofless room, bending to help Megan stand. As she did, he looked down and saw that she had water in her hands, but not filling them. Rather, it was water as he knew it from his time in space: a slowly pulsing, shimmering sphere. It seemed to float just above the cradle made by her hands.
That brings me to a total of approximately 95,000 words. I still have one short transitional ‘interlude’, then three named chapters, then a brief ‘coda’, and the book will be finished. Probably another 25,000 – 30,000 words. Which will put it right at about the total length of Communion of Dreams.
What’s interesting for me is that this chapter has proven to be a pivotal one in another way: it feels now like I really am on the home stretch of this project. Just finishing this chapter has changed the whole creative energy for me. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it no longer feels … daunting.