Banned Books Week Has Rolled Around Again

Monday, September 25th, 2017 12:54 pm
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[personal profile] malkingrey
Because the people who want to control what the rest of us read just don’t ever stop.

(Confession time here. I’m a First Amendment purist, of the stripe which, if we were talking the Second Amendment instead of the First, would undoubtedly get me labeled a “free speech nut” and have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms searching my house. And I regard with a cold and fishy eye the sort of statement that begins, “Of course I’m in favor of free speech, but….”)

Judging by the American Library Association’s Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016 list, children’s and young adult books tend to get hit the hardest — unsurprising, since everybody agrees that Protecting the Children is important, as is Molding Young Minds.

This year’s top ten list is mostly full of books that were challenged by people who wanted to protect the children from LBGTQ characters and issues. Presumably, they’re afraid that reading about such things will cause their offspring to “turn gay”, which is unlikely (as Mayor Jimmy Walker of New York observed about a censorship issue of an earlier day, “I have never yet heard of a girl being ruined by a book”) — or maybe they’re just afraid that said offspring will find validation in those books for something about themselves that they already know.

Support your local library, people. They’re fighting the good fight to keep books on the shelves for the readers who need them.

Reposted from my editorial blog.

The "Ontario Loop Tour"

Sunday, September 24th, 2017 09:12 pm
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[personal profile] gorgeousgary
Been owing y'all a vacation report for a while...

Discerning readers may have guessed that we were not at home in Maryland at the beginning of August when our anniversary rolled around. Those who know our engagement story may have even guessed we were in Toronto. You would have been correct.

Having decided not to go to Worldcon or NASFIC, I was looking for vacation ideas when a copy of AAA World reminded me this year was Canada’s 150th birthday. I’ve been wanting to get to Ottawa ever since I heard James Keelaghan’s ”Stonecutter”, and I’ll never turn down an excuse to visit our filk friends in Ontario. Plus I had piles of hotel rewards points saved up from years of cons and business trips.

So we took off the week leading into Confluence, drove up to Ottawa, spent a couple of days sightseeing and hanging out with people, drove over to Toronto, rinsed, lathered, repeated, then drove down to Pittsburgh for Confluence, and finally home. Hence the “Ontario Loop tour” moniker, given the vaguely obloid path we traversed.

The trip was good, though at times best described as “barely controlled chaos” due to the antics of a certain toddler. Especially when visiting un-childproofed homes, or after too much time strapped into a car seat, or on the first night when the hotel we stayed in northeast of Harrisburg didn’t have a crib available, or most of the other nights when we couldn’t get him to go to sleep until we turned off all the lights in the hotel room. (Thankfully we both had tablets to read or surf the ‘Net with.)

We saw a good number of filkers along the way. We dropped in on Joel and Inge twice during our stay in Ottawa; first on the way in just long enough to order pizza, then the next night for a potluck dinner and singing, which Ingrid and two friends of Joel and Inge’s from the Ottawa folk community showed up for. Tanya and Fiona drove up to meet us for lunch at a Montana’s in Belleville as we passed by on our way to Toronto. (It went much better than this year’s post-FKO run!) Phil and Jane hosted another potluck and sing for us in Toronto which Judith and Dave, Peggi and Ken, Sally and Howard came to. And we met Judith and Dave again for brunch at a Cora’s in on our way out of Canada. The only bummer is that Team Jeffers had to bow out of hosting the Toronto housefilk after Sue fell ill. Thankfully Phil and Jane were able to step in on short notice.

Our plan for our first full day in Ottawa was to start with Parliament Hill, which I have been wanting to visit ever since I first heard James Keelaghan’s song “Stonecutter” about the rebuilding of Centre Block after a 1916 fire and christening of the Peace Tower. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the front of the line for free tickets, the only tour available that included any part of Centre Block was an afternoon tour of the Library. On the other hand, besides the Peace Tower the Library was the part I most wanted to see, because it was hosting Foundations: The Words That Shaped Canada, a display of six important documents in Canadian history, including the 1867 British North America Act, the 1869 Northwest Territories Proclamation, the 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights, and the 1982 Proclamation of the Constitution Act.
To fill time until our tour we browsed Byward Market, including the Inspiration Village, an area of York Street in the core of the Market where a series of booths were set up highlighting each of Canada’s ten provinces, plus an RCMP booth, a stage for musical performances, big climbable letters spelling out “Ottawa”, and another big sign saying “Stand for Canada” on which one could pose. Sam discovered a large wood box full of Mega Blocks from which we had trouble pulling him away. Mind you, he barely plays with the bag of Mega Blocks we have at home, mostly he dumps the contents of the bag on the floor if I’ve bothered to put the blocks back in the bag. Go figure. Somewhere in the middle of the browsing we ate lunch at a pub called The Brig Pub.

We made it back to Parliament Hill with an hour to kill before the tour. We walked around the grounds for a bit, then camped out in the shade provided by the east side of Centre Block until it was time for the tour. Things got a bit backed up with security and waiting for other tours to go through, but finally we were led through the Hall of Honour and into the Library. Which was impressive; three stories of ornately carved and painted wood, decorative metal railings, massive desks and tables, shelves full of books curving along the walls, all under a soaring dome. To borrow a word from my toddler, “MINE!” (That’s Sam-speak for “WANT.”)
Our second full day in Ottawa we crossed the river to Gatineau (and border into Quebec) for stops at Parc Jacques Cartier and the Canadian Museum of History. The park was hosting MosaiCanada150, a display of 32 works of horticultural art (topiaries, essentially) representing various animals (red foxes, polar bears, puffins), people (a lobster fisherman, a prospector, a Voyageur), and symbols, icons or items associated with Canada and Canadian history (Glenn Gould’s piano, Anne of Green Gables, a CP train), plus two pieces (Blessing of the Good Omen Dragons and Joyful Celebration of the Nine Lions) donated by China for the occasion.

We got sandwiches from a small grocery store across from the Museum, then dove in. The main attraction for us was the Canadian History Hall, but first we let Sam run off some energy in the Canadian Children’s Museum. It was hard to drag him out of there, but finally we went upstairs to the Hall, which, as the name implies, traces Canadian history from ancient times through Confederation up to recent history. I will confess we goofed; we did the first part of the hall (covering ancient times up to about 1800), rested, then went upstairs to the modern part (covering World War I to the present), forgetting about the part that actually covers the founding of Canada. Oops! Well, I am sure I can find a good book or two to fill in the rest. In our defense, we were pretty tired by then and it was getting on towards the dinner hour.

Our anniversary dinner was at The Keg Mansion, in the Church and Wellesley neighborhood just east of Queen's Park and the University of Toronto. The food was good and the ambience (a 19th century mansion built by Arthur McMaster; later owned by Hart Massey) nice. Unfortunately, Mr. Toddler was in a state, probably from being cooped up in a car for several hours (not helped by Dad stressing out over Toronto-bound traffic on the 401), so we had to beat a fast retreat as soon as we'd finished our main courses. They did give us a free slice of cheesecake to take back to the hotel with us. Points for excellent service! (They also honored our reservation even though we ended up being an hour late. A call from our hotel helped.)

Our first full day in Toronto was spent at the Toronto Zoo, which at 710 acres is one of the largest zoos in the world. We started with the giant pandas, where we waited an hour in line to see Er Shun and Da Mao and their 18-month old cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue. Three of the four pandas were napping in one of their rooms, the other was next door chowing down on bamboo. As pandas do. Lunch. After lunch we hit the Australaisan pavilion, thinking we’d see a few animals we don’t get to see at the National Zoo or elsewhere in our North American travels. One Matschie's tree kangaroo, several sugar gliders, and a kookaburra or two proved us right. Then we moseyed over to the African Rainforest Pavilion to check out their group of Western lowland gorillas, including 3-year old Nneka (who was clinging to her mom at the back of the gorilla enclosure). Other animals on display included slender-tailed meerkats, spotted river otters, and ring-tailed lemurs. (Lemurs, Johnny! Lemurs!) By then it was time to head for Jane and Phil’s house, with a stop at the gift shop so I could buy Sam a small stuffed penguin. Because of course he has to have a penguin!
(Subsequently, I found out one of Sandra Boynton’s books is Your Personal Penguin. There’s even a song that goes with it. This could be a dangerous thing.)

On our second full day in Toronto we headed for the Ontario Science Centre. Having been there several years ago when I accompanied Sheryl on a visit for Bouchercon, I remembered that it is largely targeted at younger folk, so I knew Sam would have an opportunity to run around. We spent most of our time in the KidSpark area and the AstraZeneca Human Edge exhibit, with a break for lunch in the Valley Restaurant. We also caught a Science HotSpot presentation on basic rocketry, where I discovered Sam knows the word “rocket”. Good to know there is at least one area where we are raising our child right!

After the Science Centre we drove over to Bakka Books, where the fact we’d be seeing Sally Kobee at Confluence did not stop me from buying five books. Granted, two of them were for Sam; Sea Monkey and Bob, illustrated by Debbie Ohi, and Goodnight Lab, a parody of Goodnight Moon. The other books were things on my to-read/to-buy list (e.g. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae) that I haven’t seen so far at any con booksellers’ tables.

We finished the trip off with Confluence, which was good even if I ended up watching any concerts from the prefunction area. Thankfully I could see and hear reasonably well through the door. Especially during the Consortium of Genius’ headlining concert, which for the sake of both my ears and Sam’s was probably best enjoyed from the hallway anyway! Other concerts we saw included Cheshire Moon, Harold Feld, Lauren Cox, and Wreck the System. The latter is a Silver Spring-based nerdcore group Randy Hoffman discovered. They were pretty decent, and even came down to – and quite enjoyed – the open filk. Since they are local, I plan to invite them to Balticon.

The Good Place

Sunday, September 24th, 2017 04:57 pm
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[personal profile] sartorias
I've been watching this really clever sitcom while doing the exercise bike. Sadly, I only have a couple of episodes to go for the first season. Why couldn't it be longer?

It is so rare that I like a sitcom, but this one is smart and funny, and the actors terrific.

Update

Sunday, September 24th, 2017 11:32 am
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[personal profile] stevenpiziks
I'm in stasis. The stent comes out on Thursday at the doctor's office.  They insert a scope with local anesthetic and pull it out.  I get panicky every time I think about it.  My hands were shaking as I typed those words, in fact.  The medications I'm on dry my mouth out.  The stent drags at me.  Constant pain in the bathroom, more blood.  I have zero energy, and I'm often light-headed.  I can't be on my feet for more than a few minutes at a time.  I honestly don't know how I'm going to cope this week at work. 

Every teacher at Wherever has to chaperone at least one after-school event as part of the contract.  Before the kidney stones slammed me, I had signed up to chaperone the freshman fall dance, which was last Friday.  I thought about backing out, but it was only two hours in the evening, so I went.  It was a mistake.  I got through the event (Darwin came, too), but I was exhausted when I got home, and all the next day too.

I'm not sleeping well.  My mind goes back to everything that happened at the hospital and everything that's coming up--the stent coming out, more lithotripsy for my other kidney (which means more general anesthetic), probably another stent on the other side afterward.  I panic, and I don't know how to stop.  Darwin is here with me, but doesn't know what to do other than reassure me that it'll get better.

I've done a lot of reading on stents, the related medications, and the side-effects, and the symptoms I'm having aren't outside the norm, though they're on the outer edge.  I'm not in danger.  But my body tells me I am, and it makes me panic easily.  I'm trying to tell myself that I could be in Houston or Puerto Rico, and after a day there, I'd be glad to return to my current problem.  It doesn't help much.

I finally called around and found a counselor. I have an appointment with him on Tuesday, two days before the stent comes out (and there my hands are shaking again).  I don't know how I'll cope through Thursday, but I don't have much choice.

The World of Robin Hood at Age Eleven

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 05:27 am
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[personal profile] sartorias
Sometimes I really need to escape from the news, which seems more horrific every day. And my escape needs a dose of blithe fun.

So I trundle out photocopies of student papers, missing chapters from Robin Hood, as gleefully penned by eleven year olds.

L'Shana Tovah

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 04:54 am
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[personal profile] sartorias
L'Shana Tovah, all. L'Shana Tovah.

The Surgery

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 09:35 pm
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[personal profile] stevenpiziks
The surgery didn't go as I was hoping today. They pulled the stones out with a scope (no sonic waves). I had two more they hadn't seen on the left. And then they put another stent in. I'm in just as much pain as before. I still have to go back, probably two or three more times--once to remove the new stent, once to break up the other stones (for which they'll probably stent the other side), and once to have =that= stent removed. I'm not handling this well.

Today's Mail, on the Other Hand...

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 06:38 pm
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[personal profile] malkingrey
...was Capitol One trying to sell me a credit card. And the Collin Street Bakery trying to sell me a fruitcake, and a men's clothing catalog for my brother.

Wow.

(Not that I have anything against Collin Street Bakery, who do in fact make the world's best fruitcake. But I order my stuff from them online.)

Reading and Watching History -- Warrior Women

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 03:03 pm
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[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . . A few mornings ago I woke from a dreaming of Warrior Queens.  I was baffled as to why I should have been having such an interesting historically epic dream (no, I wasn't a protagonist in the dream, but an observer).

 

Archeology and Newspapers

 

It was the newspapers that caused the dream!


I recalled that the day before, I'd read the Guardian's September 12th's report of a Viking era grave located in Birken, Sweden, which held the remains of a woman, a mare and a stallion, and her weapons.


From the Guardian:

. . . . not just any warrior, but a senior one: she was buried alongside a sword, an axe, a spear, armour-piercing arrows, a battle knife, two shields and two horses. Gaming pieces – perhaps from hnefatafl, a sort of precursor to chess – suggest the female warrior from grave Bj581 was a battle strategist.

Since the Guardian became accessible online, it seems to periodically provide coverage of history's powerful women, many of whom, if not most, have been written out of history. (Not a coincidennce one thinks that the Guardian provides a lot of column space to women historians and writers such as Mary Beard -- who are reliably excoriated by the male commentators.) Thus the Guardian followed up the Birken grave and its contents with this story on Friday, September15th:

How the Female Viking Warrior Was Written Out Of History -- "What Bj 581, the ‘female Viking warrior’ tells us about assumed gender roles in archaeological inquiry"

Then, just two days ago:

The recent discovery of female bones in a Viking warrior grave is yet another indication that we’ve only scratched the surface of female history -- "How Many More Warrior Women Are Missing from the History Books?"


Predictably, all three stories were illustrated with images from the History channel's thoroughly non-historical scripted historical drama, Vikings's resident female warrior, Legartha.*



Equally predictable, were the plethora of comments in response to these Guardian stories, so many of which were jeers at the very idea. This way the readers learns that the only reason there were the bones of a woman in a warrior's burial site is because 1) the archeologists lied, don't know what they doing, are mistaken, she's really male; 2) she was the wife of a warrior who is a man, who died somewhere else and thus couldn't be interred in his own grave, or who was removed later; 3) animals put some woman's bones there.




Television's Role in the Warrior Queen Dream

 

 

Surely television via netflix streaming also played a role provoking that dream.  I am continuing to watch the Turkish historical 13th epic of Diriliş: Ertuğrul, the founding ancestor of the Ottoman Turkish empire. As these series are, it's very long, nearly 80 episodes -- I'm barely half way through, though I began watching this before summer.  But by now we're seeing the Kayi's tribe's women training for a battle - assault they are sure will be coming from the Aleppo region's reigning sultan. Aykiz, is in charge of their training.  Trained from birth in the tribe's martial arts, who is the beloved of one of the tribe's most heroic and skilled warriors (alps, they are called), she's the daughter of the blacksmith, who manufactures the tribe's weapons. What Aykriz can do with a bow and sword, whether from the ground or riding a horse at full gallop are some thrilling scenes.


Though the history of Diriliş: Ertuğrul is probably as much fiction as the Icelandic sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok from where Vikings received its inspiration, the details of these nomads' tribal life, clothing and relationships, are more than true to historic life.  There are at least as many women characters as male, and there is no question among either the characters themselves or how they are portrayed in the series that they are equally important and significant to the action, whether dramatic or historic


Additionally, the relationships among the humans and their horses is unlike anything I've ever seen in such productions no matter what country they are depicting.  These horses interact with the people who are their 'owners' and 'riders.' Even when they are functioning as scene dressing they pay attention to the action that is centered.  There is prolonged, painful scene in which one of the Heroes, Torgut, beaten and tortured by the order of the Templars' Grand Masters, has a horse tethered in the background. This horse does not belong to Torgut, but during the entire scene the horse's head and neck are turned toward the action, its ears are pricked toward the action.  And there was hay on the ground at the horse's feet.  Whether this is planned or not, nothing else could so honestly tell the viewer that these are above all, people of the horse.

 

Books - History



The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire is a 2010 book by Jack Weatherford, which I just finished, ahem, bookends brilliantly with Diriliş: Ertuğrul. Not least among the reasons this is so, is that it too begins in the 13th century, the same as in which Diriliş: Ertuğrul is located. Weatherford reads and writes Mongolian, and has spent a great deal of time living in Mongolia. The story of warrior queen, Mandukhai, the woman who restored Genghis Khan's ideals for the Mongols, is enthralling -- and she's not the only one.  It also show how easily and quickly such women, even when their rule is the law of the land, can be overthrown and utterly erased from the historical record -- at least the official record.  This includes literally tearing the accounts of their lives out of the official record. 


Among the many elements of his book that I appreciated is how much of the cultural practices, from religious to jewelry and clothing of these tribes who populated such a vast region of central Asia for millennia, are found all across eras and regions -- from the Hittites and Scythians, China (the interactions between the kingdoms that became China are ancient, and the Mongols supposedly ruled a large part for a while), to the Tartars of Russia and the tribes that became the Ottomans. One can see it most particularly in the headdresses of the women.  Why these are they way they are, Weatherman explains.  These connections and continuities I've always felt, but never knew how or why. Nomadic pressures and conquest were the driving forces for all of it -- and smart, fighting and ruling women were always integral.


Weatherford's The Secret History is the source for the counterpart novels in recent days with  Mongol settings and characters, which includes The Tiger's Daughter (which is the title for one of the sections in scholar Weatherford's history) and even parts of Guy Gavriel Kay's China duology, Under Heaven and River of Stars and even for the Netflix original two seasons of Marco Polo. This series had more than one warrior woman based on historical figure in Secret History, which, judging by their sneers of disbelief and dislike of these characters on discussion forum I visit, male viewers hated.

 

 

 


The first biography of 16th - 17th century African warrior queen, Njinga of Angola,by our friend Prof. Linda Heywood, has just been published by Harvard University Press,   It's hard to describe how thrilling it is to read a book bout such a fierce and successful woman, faced with such terrible odds, written by another fierce and successful woman -- whom I actually know!  Moreover, this is set in the same era as the last sections of Weatherford's history of the Mongol Queens, which feature the brilliant fighting woman, general and ruler, Mandukhai.   (Let us not forget another great, powerful and successful ruler of the era, Queen Elizabeth!)

 

 


Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro Creole Consciousness 1570 - 1640 (2003) by Herman L. Bennett is helping prepare for the October Veracruz American Slave Coast Jazz Festival.  As one can see from the dates covered, this is a pair with Njinga of Angola. 


These colonial Mexican Africans were brought as slaves from Njinga's region by her enemies, the Portuguese.  This is also the period of the Iberian Union, the peak of Spain's power, when Spain and Portugal were under the same crown. 

 

 


The other two new books we have here are Hillary's What Happened (there are more than one way that a woman can be a warrior queen) and Le Carré's Legacy of Spies (more fictionalized history).


Reading and watching are so rich these days, no wonder I am having action adventure epic dreams of Warrior Queens.


------------------------------


*  Alas, after about two and a half seasons Vikings devolved into preposterosity, lacking even a pretense of plot plausibility, characters behaving like idiots for not reason, and a distinct lack of Lagertha, showing that men (meaning in this instance the guy who show runner, writer and director) have no idea what to do with a female character who can take care of herself.

Sometimes It's the Little Things

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017 02:36 pm
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[personal profile] malkingrey
It doesn't take much to improve my mood, a lot of the time.

Today it was a surprise short story royalty check in the morning mail.

Not a large one . . . given that most short story payments are lucky if they make in into the low three figures, most short story royalties tend to be in the exceedingly low two figures. If that. (If a short story payment is a tank, maybe two tanks, of gas, then a typical short story royalty check is maybe a couple of quarts of motor oil.) But still, a royalty check is a royalty check, and not yet another piece of junk mail from Capital One, trying to sell me a credit card.

As they say back where I come from, it beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Bees

Monday, September 18th, 2017 06:54 pm
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[personal profile] sartorias
I was working away when the next door neighbor called, and said there were a zillion bees swarming around my pine tree on the patio. By the time I finished what I was typing, and went down to look out the kitchen window, I only saw four or five bees, and thought nothing of it.

Then, a few minutes ago, I took the dog out for a walk, and the neighbor came out, and said, look at the trunk of your pine. Whoa!

Here's from the side. click and embiggen, to see how far around the trunk they go.


Bees

And this below is from the sidewalk. Look in the upper portion of the trunk--that is a zillion bees tightly packed together.

Bees 2

That looks so . . . weird.

If they're still there in a couple of days, I'll have to find beekeepers to move them. My son's biological family on the female side has a deadly bee allergy running through them--his bio uncle has to carry an epipen everywhere, and my patio is about the size of two bedsheets put together. In fact, when I dry my laundry outside, I can only get one set of bedding out there at a time.

EDITED TO ADD: Between one check and the next ten minutes later, they suddenly vanished. I would have loved to see them swarm! But they are gone, and I hope they find a good, safe home.

Leslie Jones Most Glamorous of 2017 Emmys!

Monday, September 18th, 2017 11:15 am
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[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . . My one and only Emmy vote goes to Leslie Jones, for the most stunning and glamorous at the Emmys of 2017.


Here is why:

 

 

Few could carry this, but O Lordessa, can Leslie Jones ever!


Runner-up, Jane Fonda:


Front

And

Back

And

Side

The Hospital and Me: So Here's What Happened

Saturday, September 16th, 2017 12:37 pm
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[personal profile] stevenpiziks
Most of you know I was in the hospital last week for three days with kidney stones that required an operation.  Here's what happened.  This is a long entry, folks. The whole thing was traumatic and awful for me, and I process difficult experiences through words, so I'm writing it all down.

Last Sunday, Darwin went up to Lansing to visit friends, and Max was at his mother's, which meant I had the house to myself for a whole day.  Wow!  Pretty cool!  But around noon, I got a familiar pain in my left flank, and I recognized an oncoming kidney stone problem. 

I've gotten kidney stones most of my life.  The first hit me when I was 22.  If you're unfamiliar with kidney stones, in my case they're calcite deposits that get stuck in the kidneys and eventually clump together to form rough stones. Most of them pass out of the body undetected, others grow larger and I can feel them go--it's distinctly unpleasant--and a few hang out in the kidney, growing larger and larger, until they clog everything up, which causes enormous pain.  They've continued ever since, and I end up in the hospital every three years or so for a bad one.  The usual treatment is to administer powerful painkillers and hook me up to a saline IV to flood my body with fluid, which usually pops the stone free and lets it pass.  The painkillers make this possible without screaming.  Kidney stones are considered one of the most painful, gut-wrenching events a human can undergo, and bad ones even outrank childbirth on the pain scale.  (As one nurse put it, "I've had kidney stones and gone through childbirth. I'd way rather go through childbirth. At least with childbirth, you get a baby when it's over.  With a kidney stones, you get a rock.")

I've had so many stones that I knew instantly what was going on.  Almost all the time, the pain twinges, grows, then fades as the stone moves, and I start drinking a lot of water to wash it out.  But this time, the pain grew fast, and was getting worse and worse.  I finally called Kala to see if she could bring Max home from her place instead of me picking him up, then jumped into the car and drove like hell for the ER.  On the way I called Darwin, who was still in Lansing, and he said he would leave right away.

By the time I got to the ER, I was in considerable distress and barely ambulatory.  Inside, the security guard asked what I wanted, and I told him I was in great pain from a kidney stone, so I needed to be admitted right away.  At which point, the guard ignored me and turned to a mother and son who had come in behind me. He asked them what they wanted, and gave them complicated directions on how to find and visit someone already in the ER.  Meanwhile, I was standing there, panting in pain, and he ignored me.  I finally limped past him and sat down at the admissions desk, to the nurse's surprise.

I managed to get through the check-in ("Did someone bring you hear?" "I drove myself."  "How do you know it's a kidney stone?"  "I've had four or five dozen of them.  I know the signs.") and into the ER proper.

Meanwhile, the pain kept growing.  It was a demon chewing on my insides with white-hot teeth.  The admitting nurse went through a mess of questions, material that's already in my medical records with that hospital, but hospitals apparently can't be bothered to check their own computers.  One of the stupider things is that every single person--and I mean EVERY ONE of them--asked what medicine allergies I have.  It's right there on your computer screen!  Just give me the pain medication.

By now the pain was making me scream.  I lay there on the gurney howling and biting my arm and shouting with the pain, and I couldn't stop.  I screamed and screamed and screamed, and the nurse clucked, "We'll get you some painkillers soon," leaving me to scream and scream and scream some more.  The pain was so bad, I couldn't think of anything else.  I wadded my sweatshirt up and pressed it to my mouth to muffle the noise, but I couldn't stop screaming.  I have no idea why it took them so long to give me a shot, either.  Hospital bureaucracy trumps patient need.

Finally, a nurse showed up with a pair of syringes.  By now, I didn't really know where I was or who I was.  I was vaguely aware of the bed and the ER curtain.  All I felt was the all-consuming pain, and I couldn't stop screaming.

At last--at LAST--the nurse administered the shots.  After a few moments, the pain dulled and I collapsed back on the gurney with all my limbs heavy.  I could feel the tension drain under the drug.

"We need to do an MRI to find the stone," the nurse announced, and an intern wheeled the bed down the hall.  I could still feel the pain, but the drugs prevented it from bothering me.  A technician ran me through the MRI scanner--very science-fictional--and wheeled me back to the ER.  The shot was already wearing off, and I had to ask for more meds.

"I'll put in the request," said the nurse.

Darwin finally arrived, with Max in tow.  I told them what was going on, then lay there on the bed, monitoring my pain levels.  It was getting steadily worse, and again I called for the next shot, but the nurse was still processing the request.

The pain shot up again, and I started screaming.  I knew it was unnerving Max, but I couldn't stop.  Finally, they gave me another.  It lasted about half an hour, and then more pain ripped my side.  Fortunately by now they'd put me on an "as needed" order, and I was able to get the meds faster.

During the first series of shots, though, my heart rate went way down.  My resting heart rate is normally in the 50s because I run so much.  This already made the ER nurses nervous.  (The more fit your are, the worse off you become?)  With morphine, it went down into the 30s.  And so they decided to put me on a heart monitor and call a cardiologist.

Someone off-stage read my MRI and came in to report that I had three stones--two on the left, one on the right.  One of the left ones was 8mm in diameter--very big--and it was causing the problems.  The other two were 3 and 4mm, respectively, but they weren't doing anything just then.

The ER physician said I needed an operation. Using a scope, they would put a stent--a drain--between my kidney and my bladder to let the kidney drain.  Once the swelling went down, which would take about a week, they would do a lithotripsy, which uses a sonic cannon to break up the stone so it can more easy wash away.

At last the pain subsided.  I was sweaty and itchy and zoned out from the medication.  They put me on a regular rotation--a new pain shot every few hours.  The stent operation was scheduled for that evening, and they would admit me in the meantime.

They wheeled my bed upstairs to a regular room--private, thank gods--and here's where the strange ordeal began.

Because my heart is in good shape, the hospital decided I was a heart attack risk.  I'm not kidding.  They spent more time worrying about my heart than the kidney stones.  They ordered an EKG.  It came back perfectly normal.  They ordered a thyroid blood test.  It came back normal.  They ordered a sonogram of my heart.  Normal.  A cardiologist examined me twice.  Normal.  Every single test came back normal, normal, normal.  "So I can take this monitor off?" I said.

"No," said the cardiologist.  "But everything is normal."

I was in pain and getting angry, as people in pain are wont to do.  Every time I tried to go to the bathroom, I had to deal with wires and cords and IV lines, for example.  Every test they ran involved putting electrodes on me and then ripping them off, and when you're hairy like me, it's highly painful.  Once, the nurse pointed out that I had a rash on my chest, and I couldn't help snapping at her that I wouldn't have one if people would quit ripping electrodes off me.  I hit the point where I was going to drop the next person who demanded a heart test out the window, but the demands finally ceased, though the monitor stayed.

And then it turned out the operating room didn't have a slot on the roster for me after all.  I could 1) go home and come back in the morning; or 2) stay in the hospital and wait for the next slot, which would probably be tomorrow morning.  I couldn't go home--the pain kept coming back at unexpected intervals, and I couldn't survive without the painkiller shots.

Darwin went home and brought me some stuff, and I found myself subjected to the hospital regimen.  First, they wanted me to take an anticoagulant because my poor, absolutely normal heart might develop circulation problems and blood clots if I stayed in bed for all of 24 hours.  Seriously?  I flatly refused this one, and the staff backed off.

The food service was nice, though.  They don't bring meals on a regular schedule at this hospital.  Instead, you call a number, order from a menu, and they send it up.  That was good.  I hadn't eaten in hours and hours because I was supposed to stay away from food until the operation--which now wasn't happening.  So I could eat, at least. 

Darwin and Max hung around the hospital until I finally sent them home on the grounds that I was fine for the moment, and they had to sleep.  I also made lesson plans and sent them into the school.  You don't get to just call in sick when you're a teacher.

The bed was weird.  Every few minutes, the mattress moved under me, forcing me to rearrange.  This, I realized, was also to prevent blood clots.  This must be the de rigeur thing to worry about in hospitals, even with patients who aren't at risk for them.  It kept waking me up.

In the morning, the hospital denied me breakfast because the operation was coming up soon now.  10 AM they'd come for me.  Darwin took the day off from work so he could stay with me.  And then the operation was moved to 10:30.  And then it was canceled outright and scheduled for Tuesday.  Again, I could 1) go home and come back tomorrow; or 2) stay in the hospital and wait.

I tried not be upset.  The doctor said that the weekend had been unexpectedly busy, so the OR schedule was crowded, and I tried to remember that someone who needed open heart surgery or an emergency appendectomy needed to get in right away, and I was stable so I could wait.  But it was hard.  The pain had abated, but could come roaring back any time, and the schedule of pain meds made me constantly loopy.  I had to stay--no way I could risk going home and then having to rush back to the ER.  I was also cranky because I hadn't eaten in more than thirteen hours for an operation that now wouldn't take place.

I sat in the hospital all day Monday, reading and watching videos.  I even managed a bit of writing on my laptop, which Darwin brought to me.  I was glad he was there, but he was also becoming agitated about missing another day of work himself.  He was charged with transporting Max to and from school as well, and with bringing Max in to see me.  It wasn't any fun for any of us.

I told the nurse I needed to take a shower, and she said she'd "put in a request" for it.  I just nodded.  I didn't tell her that I had already decided to take a shower, request or not, and if she didn't come back with "permission" in fifteen minutes, I was heading in.  I don't do well with asking permission for basic functions, I'm afraid, which makes me difficult patient sometimes.  But a few minutes later, the nurse came back to report I was cleared for cleansing.  I took the stupid monitor off and showered, which made me feel better.  Afterward, nearly an hour went by before anyone noticed the monitor hadn't been reconnected, and they sent a tech in to deal with it.  One of the electrode stickers had come loose in the shower, and she reached for it, intending to tear it off and replace it.  I blocked her hand.

"Sorry," I said.  "If that electrode comes off, it's staying off.  No more ripping.  I'm afraid I'm done with that."

She managed to make it work without replacing it, and we were both happy.

My primary care physician stopped by on his rounds.  I was more than a little unhappy with him.  Years ago, he put me on Topamax, an anti-seizure med that also helps control migraines.  But one of the nurses told me that Topamax is definitively linked to increased kidney stone formation.  My doctor KNEW I get kidney stones, but he prescribed this anyway?  Doing my best not to be sharp, I told him he needed to find another medication, and he said we would discuss it.  Damn right we will.

The day passed slowly.  Finally, they alerted me that I was scheduled for a 10:30 AM operation.  But I couldn't eat or drink after midnight!

Usual protocol for operations dictates no eating or drinking only six hours before anesthesia.  (This is in case the anesthetic makes you barf.  They want your stomach empty for that.)  When did six hours become ten and a half?  But I just smiled and nodded.  Anesthesia doesn't make me barf, and Darwin had brought me food anyway.

In the morning, I ate a breakfast of a contraband banana and some crackers.  I had just tossed the banana peel away when the nurse came in for the morning readings.

Darwin came in to wait with me, but he hadn't eaten breakfast yet.  After a couple hours, he went out to get some food, and while he was gone, the nursing team came in and announced the operation was a go, early!  They rushed me down to OR prep, and here I actually talked to the urologist for the first time.  (Before, I'd seen interns.)  She said that they might be able to get the stone out today, depending on what happened, but there was no guarantee.  Did I eat anything after midnight?

"Nope," I lied.

Darwin tracked me down and waited through the OR prep stuff, which was mostly answering the same questions over and over.  The main one that got me was, "What happens to you when you take penicillin?", which I'm allergic to.  Over and over, I said, "I don't know. I was tested as a baby and haven't had it since." Inwardly, I was thinking, "Does it matter? You aren't planning to GIVE it to me, are you?"  I must have answered that question fifteen times.

At last, they wheeled me away from Darwin and into the OR with the surgical team.  There was a bad moment when they couldn't find the anesthesiologist.  It turned out he was stuck with another patient, and they had to find someone else.  She finally arrived and we were able to start.

I've learned that I don't like anesthesia.  (Does anyone?)  The drug doesn't bother me, and I don't have bad reactions to it.  What I learned I don't like is going through a major procedure that involves my body while I'm totally unaware of what's going on.  I can't ask questions, I can't watch what's happening, I can't make decisions.  I don't know who's in the room.  I don't know what they're doing to me, and I can't stop them from doing something I don't want.  I don't know what they're saying about me.  This bothers me enormously.  It would make me feel a great deal better if Darwin were able to watch the operation and report to me afterward what happened, but they don't allow that in this hospital.

I realized this when my gall bladder had to come out.  When I woke up, I had a big chancre sore in my mouth.  I mused aloud to the recovery room nurse that I must have bitten myself while I was under anesthesia.  She exchanged an odd look with another nurse, nodded, and then just said, "Maybe."  I later learned that I had been on a breathing tube, and the sore was from the tube.  This stabbed me through.  Why wasn't I told I'd be on a respirator?  And why didn't the nurse just give me the information?  This is my body, my care, my information, and the hospital deliberately withheld it from me.  There were other aspects of the operation that I found out about after the fact, too, and this upset me even more.  People were doing things to me while I was unconscious, and I felt violated and angry.  Yes, I know they were doing their best to help me.  That doesn't mean they can rush ahead and do it without explaining it, and then try to hide what they did.  It's as if the hospital doesn't see a person.  They see a lump of meat that needs to be rushed around, sliced, diced, and then rushed back out.

So I hate anesthesia.

The anesthesiologist put a breathing mask on me and injected the drugs.  And then I was in the recovery room with Darwin next to my bed.  No, I didn't throw up. 

My memory is foggy for that first hour, but eventually I ended up back in my old room.  The urologist had only installed the stent.  The stone hadn't come out.  A great deal of fluid and even pus had drained immediately from my kidney, she said, but the stone was too high up to come down.  I would need lithotripsy later, and would have to schedule that.

This upset me all over again, and I hadn't realized how much I'd been hoping for this all to end that day until they told me I had more to do.

More waiting in the hospital room, this time for final discharge.  The hated heart monitor was gone, leaving me freer to walk about the room.  I was also unhooked from my IV.  I took advantage of this to take another shower and strip the electrodes off for the final time.  Just after that, the floor nurse came back in to check things.  "And we'll put the heart monitor back on."

"No," I said tiredly.  "It's not going back on.  If you want, you can call the doctor and have him come in and yell at me, but it's staying off."

The nurse let that ride.  For some reason, she didn't hook me back up to the IV, either.  I think she forgot.

I was in pain again, this time from the stent.  One third of patients don't even notice the stent.  One third have small problems with it.  And one third have big problems with it.  Guess which category I fell into?

Going to the bathroom is a horrifying ordeal.  It hurt almost as bad as the stones, and made me wonder if they had moved and clogged something up.  But the stent is designed to halt clogging entirely, and to stretch out the ureter a little to make passage of future stones easier.  The pain was just me being one of the third group who has problems with a stent.  The urologist assured me the pain would ease and disappear after a day or two.  Passing blood was to be expected.  I could resume all normal activities right away.

At last, it was time to go home.  I checked out of the hospital with a bagful of medications, and Max drove me home--Darwin had the other car.

At home, I tried to rest, but the stent pain was still there.  Constant.  Twisting my insides.  I dreaded going to the bathroom, not only because the pain shot up whenever I did, but also because I never knew what I would see.  Sometimes everything looked just fine, and then suddenly I'd be expelling dark red or bits of tissue.  The simple act of going to the toilet became an ordeal, and I found myself putting it off (which is bad for this condition) and getting tense in anticipation of the pain.  It's steadily conditioning me to avoid the bathroom, and that's problematic.

This whole thing is exhausting.  Between the pain, the memory of agony, fear that it'll come back worse, uncertainty about what'll happen next, I'm wrecked.  It's tiring to be scared and in pain all the time.  The original pain was so bad, I break into a sweat over the idea that it could come back.

I had originally planned to go back to work on Wednesday, but Tuesday evening I was still exhausted and in pain.  I couldn't work.  I had to make more lesson plans before I could call in.

I shuffle slowly around the house these days.  I can't handle bumps or jarring.  When I ride in the car, I have to remind Darwin to avoid all possible bumps because each one sends a jolt of pain through me.

A hospital robo-voice called to request that I take a survey about my care.  I hung up.  I don't do surveys.

Wednesday, I slept and watched TV and ate painkillers that didn't seem to work.  I compared my pills to the ones Max got after his wisdom teeth operation and discovered my pills are a much lower dosage.  WTF?  So I started using Max's leftover pills and that helped.

I go through temper flare-ups that I can't seem to control.  I know it's because I'm in pain and because of the psychological trauma I underwent.  The pain Pain PAIN still weighs on me, and I keep waiting for it to pounce on me again like an gleeful tiger. Just the memory of it makes me shake.  For a moment just this evening, it looked like the pain might be coming back, and I found myself fighting off a panic attack, I was so scared.

And now I'm being tossed about the medical field like a volleyball.  My primary care physician said I have to see him for a follow-up, but when I called his office, the receptionist said he wouldn't be able to see me until next week, though I could see a PA instead.  "No," I said. "I need to see the doctor."  "It's not required that you see the doctor," said the receptionist.  "It's only--"  "I have to talk directly to Dr. S-- about my medications."  The receptionist scared up a cancellation and scheduled me for Monday afternoon.  I called the urologist to schedule the lithotripsy, and this was a two-day problem to solve.  I received follow-up calls from the hospital.   Volleyball.

I taught classes on Thursday and Friday.  Both days I discovered my stamina was only good for 45 minutes, and I had to reconstruct my lessons to give me sit-down time for the last 15 minutes of class.  This is where being a 22-year veteran has its advantages.  I can redo lessons very quickly.

By Friday afternoon, I was completely wiped.  Darwin wanted to go out to eat, but I was TIRED of eating hospital food and cheap diner food and of going here and there and everywhere.  But I couldn't cook, and Darwin refuses to try.  (Before we married, he lived at restaurants.)  Truly, once or twice a month, I would love it if Someone Else cooked a meal for me.  But whenever I suggest it, Darwin only offers to bring home takeout.  Marriage is overlooking the stuff about your husband that drive you crazy.

Darwin, meanwhile, was putting up with me being cranky and short-tempered and emotional. I'd been away for three days, and became visibly upset to find that no one had taken the bread out of the breadmaker while I was gone (I started a batch before the pain demons arrived), no one had filled or run the dishwasher, which now smelled rancid, no one had changed the cat box.  No one had gone grocery shopping.  I was trying not to be in a foul mood about any of it, but it felt like Darwin and Max had decided between them to leave everything for me to do when I got home.  I doubt that was their thinking--it just didn't occur to them to do these things unless I'm there to point them out.  But that's the way I felt.  My emotions went--still go--all over.  One moment, I'm rampaging about something small, and the next I'm huddled on the bed in tears from the pain and fear. 

I have lithotripsy--breaking up the stones with shock waves--on Wednesday.  Another day away from work, another dose of anesthesia.  I'm scared that it won't go well, and I'll have to come back, and I'm scared they won't take the stent out, and I'll have to come back for that, too--as well as live with awful pain every time I go to the bathroom.

I have to get through this.

Tea and Talk

Saturday, September 16th, 2017 07:26 pm
sartorias: (Default)
[personal profile] sartorias
Though I deeply appreciate net connections (which constitute the majority of my social life, such as it is) it is good to have actual conversations with human beings in the same space time continuum.

Today, [personal profile] calimac is in Southern California, and so had a chance to come by for tea and scones. (Well, I had tea, and [personal profile] calimac had water.) We blabbed non-stop about reading, Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, classical music, the evolution of TV, the differences in short story and novel writing, and how to conduct an interview/ run a panel ([personal profile] calimac suggested this interview with Robin Williams and Stephen Fry), and the Mythopoeic Society, and then reminisced about stuff the younger generation has no concept of, except in movies: things you never think of, such as leaded gas, and the total lack of recycling of the sixties, party lines, how horribly expensive it was to make long-distance calls (especially in the days when families had a single phone), etc.

We didn't just blab about old people stuff. We also talked about how awesome YouTube is, especially for musical discoveries. I have so many saved links, tabs, and tags that I can't find what i'm looking for half the time, but I did manage to find this one, and am always looking for more, of course.

Ah, that was fun--then, of course, back to work.

Some Days I Like Working in My Kitchen

Saturday, September 16th, 2017 06:52 pm
malkingrey: (Default)
[personal profile] malkingrey
And then there are days like this.

This afternoon I decided, for good and sufficient reasons, that it was time to use one of boxes of brownie mix that I've got in my pantry stash. (Every so often, the grocery store puts them on sale for a dollar, and when they do I stock up.) This process, let it be known, is not rocket science: Prep the pan, empty the box into a bowl, add the oil and the water and the two eggs, mix, pour into pan, and cook. Even a functioning maladroit like me on an off day can manage it, and get chocolaty goodness at the end of it.

All went well until it was time to mix in the two eggs. I took the first egg, and tapped it on the tabletop to crack it, as one does . . . only this egg must have had a super-thin shell, because it didn't just crack, it burst all the way open all around and left me with a raw egg lying on the tabletop and dripping onto the floor.

Cleanup operations ensued.

Once the floor and the tabletop were egg-free again, I went over to the refrigerator to take out another egg, in order to replace the one that never made it into the mixing bowl. And yes, I know I should have taken the egg box all the way out of the refrigerator, instead of merely lifting up the lid and reaching into it, but in my defense, I've performed the same move dozens of times without having the egg roll in my fingers and slip off them onto the refrigerator shelf . . . and then evade my fingers a second time and crash onto the floor. (Yes, maybe I could have grabbed faster, but the way things were going, I would just have ended up with a fistful of liquid egg and broken shell.)

More cleanup operations ensued.

Then, finally, I was able to finish mixing the brownies and get them into the oven. From which I have just removed them, and they are done and awaiting cutting. And the oven is now heating up the half-ham I bought last Wednesday, which will be tonight's dinner. Probably with raisin sauce, because raisin sauce is dead easy.

(But then, I thought the same thing about cracking eggs.)

Antithetical to FB: This Is NYC At Her Coolest

Saturday, September 16th, 2017 10:28 am
al_zorra: (Default)
[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . .   Now, the productive side of technology, to combat the vile, dark, evil FB side:

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/16/nyregion/hatem-el-gamasy-bodega-

 
www.nytimes.com
Hatem El-Gamasy often appears as a pundit for Egyptian television news programs. His viewers don’t know his day job: He owns a bodega in Queens.

FB Users -- Why R We Helping 2 Spread Hate?

Saturday, September 16th, 2017 10:00 am
al_zorra: (Default)
[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . .  Sleeping Giants on Twitter

Every FB user is selling hate. No one escapes. Because this is what FB is, in order to make its owners obscenely rich by selling you, your info, your eyeballs, in support of the most vile beliefs, convictions and aspirations that humanity has ever dreamed of.  Not least, FB also accepts Russian money to mess with our nation and elections,  giving them all the space in the world to do it in -- and then lying about it, while refusing to stop.

Why? Why Are people still selling themselves to that vile platform? Of their own free will?

Now, imagine.  Imagine if every single person who identifies her / him self as loyal and loving the USA, as a social justice warrior, as a person who is the antithesis of anti-semitic, racist, sexist, bigoted, intolerant, who is LGBT, immigration positive, whose convictions are for equal opportunity for all --- IMAGINE if every one of us quit FB right this minute. IMAGINE not only the message this sends, but the effect it would have.

Now, imagine that we don't refuse to be an FB head.  What does this mean?

twitter.com
 
“THREAD: While everyone is focused on @facebook ad buying categories like "Jew Hater", this is arguably the bigger story. 1/ https://t.co/w6hF15itU1”

https://twitter.com/slpng_giants/status/908756618539556864

Yah, I've been an FB refusnik from the beginning and still am, in case anyone wonders.  I also refuse Twitter -- but el V follows a lot of twitter users, though he doesn't have an account himself.  And ay-up, I do use google and amazon.  They are all evil, but FB is by far the very worst, the only one to my knowledge, at this point, that has been profiting from hate and attempts to destroy the US from within.
sartorias: Lady Pirate (Lady Pirate)
[personal profile] sartorias
Fans of Swordspoint--or anyone who loves LGBTQ-friendly swashbuckling action and romance--the terrific first season of Tremontaine is available for $2.99

Season three will go live October 11.

For Stoutfellow -- Out of Culture Cometh Zero!

Thursday, September 14th, 2017 12:30 pm
al_zorra: (Default)
[personal profile] al_zorra
         . . . . In case Dreamwidth's resident mathmatics professor[personal profile] stoutfellow[personal profile]  , hasn't seen reports of the earliest discovered manuscript usage of "zero" -- here is a report about it in the Guardian.


The ‘front’ page (recto) of folio 16 which dates to 224-383 AD. Photograph: Courtesy of Bodleian Libraries/ University of Oxford

"Translations of the text, which is written in a form of Sanskrit, suggest it was a form of training manual for merchants trading across the Silk Road, and it includes practical arithmetic exercises and something approaching algebra. “There’s a lot of ‘If someone buys this and sells this how much have they got left?’” said Du Sautoy.

In the fragile document, zero does not yet feature as a number in its own right, but as a placeholder in a number system, just as the “0” in “101” indicates no tens. It features a problem to which the answer is zero, but here the answer is left blank.

Several ancient cultures independently came up with similar placeholder symbols. The Babylonians used a double wedge for nothing as part of cuneiform symbols dating back 5,000 years, while the Mayans used a shell to denote absence in their complex calendar system. 

However the dot symbol in the Bakhshali script is the one that ultimately evolved into the hollow-centred version of the symbol that we use today. It also sowed the seed for zero as a number, which is first described in a text called Brahmasphutasiddhanta, written by the Indian astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta in 628AD."

 
This is the part that I find fascinating -- that culture can also create science and numerical thought:

 
“This becomes the birth of the concept of zero in it’s own right and this is a total revolution that happens out of India,” said Du Sautoy.

The development of zero as a mathematical concept may have been inspired by the region’s long philosophical tradition of contemplating the void and may explain why the concept took so long to catch on in Europe, which lacked the same cultural reference points.

“This is coming out of a culture that is quite happy to conceive of the void, to conceive of the infinite,” said Du Sautoy. “That is exciting to recognise, that culture is important in making big mathematical breakthroughs.”
 

Unbelievable.

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 01:00 pm
malkingrey: ((default))
[personal profile] malkingrey
Hotel reservations at the Westin for Arisia opened up yesterday.

This morning, they are already sold out.

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