Elizabeth Moon's Blog, page 9

December 1, 2012

Since the last post, I've had progress on several fronts with the bike and riding. Thanksgiving week was pretty much a bust, as I was working on the feast and then recovery therefrom, but on the Saturday after Thanksgiving I rode the short loop in reverse (a harder direction due to longer uphill leg) without stopping, and then early in the week did two more-than-half-mile rides on the land. On Thursday, I took the bike to the city to have a bike computer and rear-view-mirror installed.

These have made a huge difference. The rear-view mirror has given me more confidence about riding on the street (our streets are so narrow, especially the one easiest for me to ride on--the others are across a highway.) I had been avoiding it except for once a day at the quietest time. I rode the full length both ways on Thursday when I got home from the city, and twice Friday and today. Since it's easier to ride on the street than on the land, I can ride farther.

The bike computer, meanwhile, gives me an accurate measure of the distance traveled, which is allowing me to "map" the rides both on the street and on the land, and plan for rides of specific lengths. (I now know that Short Loop is 0.48 miles, for instance, not the 0.45 I was estimating from Google Earth.) Combined with more confidence about riding on the street, this means my distance has shot up. In the three days this past week before I got the bike computer M, T, W), I rode a total of 2 miles. In the three days since getting the computer, I've ridden 5.85 miles, and two of the days I rode more than two miles/day. (Thursday, I didn't have that much time to ride when I got home from the city.) Today I rode part of the Dry Woods trail I had not ridden before, and part that I'd ridden but not confidently. Some of it is still very difficult for me--practice will fix that. From where I start through the Dry Woods trail to the west grass is 0.31 miles; because I ride into the back yard (but start out in the horse lot) the round trip is 0.64.

My legs are feeling it (which is good) but not really painful (ditto.) This week's goal is 2 miles on pavement and a half mile or more on the land every day (weather permitting; we have fronts in the forecast.) I also want to work toward doing the two miles on pavement in one ride, not two separated by a rest, so I can do just two rides a day--a pavement ride and a land ride.
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Published on December 01, 2012 18:58 • 44 views

November 19, 2012

With the gain in strength and so on, I keep waiting for the pounds to melt away--but so far, though I can feel harder muscle under the flab, the flab is still with me.   Better than no hard muscle.  The last pictures were from September 28, so even counting the 2 weeks of travel and some sick days, there's been a solid month of riding since then.   I'm covering more distance.   The pictures in that post were taken from nearer the house than those today--my husband walked out to very near the dry woods.

Ebike-Nov_down-to-ditch-crossing312I rode out  the gate near the front end of the tractor, and am partway across the near meadow, soon to cross the old ditch at the rock crossing.   (This picture's been lightened some--moving clouds affected the light unpredictably.)
Coming up the trail to the dry woods from the ditch, and about to ride over one of the old terrace berms that lie across the slope.   The picture doesn't show how much more easily I can ride up this slope than a month ago.  But that's not all.  I don't stop at the dry woods corner anymore.

EbikeNov_dry-woods-berm324Riding the mowed path on top of the berm; tall grass conceals the drop-off on either side.  The trail turns, dipping into a shallow area that collects water when it rains (you can just see the gabion--wire sausage filled with rocks--that helps control erosion in storms.)

When I make the turn and come across the dip, I have a choice of two trails:
EbikeNov_dry-woods-swale-to-woodsThe one to the right goes into the dry woods on a winding path that leads upward through brush, then a flat open area, then onto bare rock, and finally Fox Pavilion.    To the left, the trail runs along the front of the dry woods, beside the dry woods swale.  The berm that confines the swale angles away.  Today I rode to the other corner of the dry woods (into a head wind) and then came back. on the same trail. 

Here I'm coming back across the dry woods swale, having across to the far corner of the dry woods and back--much easier with the wind behind me, having turned right onto this part of trail and about to turn left and up onto the berm.. 
EbikeNov_crossing-dry-woods-swale335This is an easier, gentler turn and rise than coming up the other way, where the turn is sharper and so is the rise--it's not high, but it's still steeper.
EbikeNov_up-onto-berm336Up onto the berm, just about level with the end of the gabion (barely visible through the grass. 

And from there, back to the house, first mostly downhill to the rock crossing of the ditch, and then up the slope of the near meadow into the horse lot, through the yard gate, into the yard.


Although the "short loop" ride is open and easier for the photographer to get pictures, we'll try for some in the brush and woods later. 

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Published on November 19, 2012 16:26 • 57 views

November 14, 2012

(This post is a near-mirror of a post I made over on SFF.net's discuss-politics group.  This disclosure is made to avoid being charged with "self-plagiarism," a currently fashionable charge that I think is , um, not as important as its supporters think.  I could be wrong.  So could they.)

In our culture, a certain value is placed on voluntary anonymity: the secret ballot, the ability of whistle-blowers to remain anonymous, etc. Most of us understand why anonymity is legally granted for some people, and culturally granted for others. We also understand that anonymity allows some to abuse it--to vandalize, to steal, to lynch--without being caught.  We suspect wrongdoing when we notice obvious markers of using anonymity for private gain--the mask, the hood, the Swiss bank account, the secret funding of movements, the disguise of any kind.   "Why are you hiding this if you're not doing something wrong?" is a common question. 

There's also value placed on accountability: blaming the right person for his/her misdeeds, crediting the right person for his/her good deeds. When the wrong person is blamed, we know that's an injustice--as it is when the wrong person is given credit. Most place more emphasis on putting the blame in the right place. Evading accountability with anonymity is disapproved of when the accountability is for something considered wrongdoing. Signing into a hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Jones when the real names are Bill Brown and Mary White, for instance.

And there's a fundamental incompatibility between those. The anonymous person
cannot be held accountable, because you don't know who she (or he) is.

All that's very obvious, and much of the time, we lazily think that the good guys should be able to be anonymous when doing good things, and the bad guys (whoever we suspect of being bad guys) should not be able to hide behind anonymity--should be identified and punished. We often disagree on who the good and bad guys are, and which situations should allow anonymity and which should not.

The fundamental incompatibility of these two conditions isn't as often in the forefront of our minds.   But last spring, in the middle of a BBC discussion involving me, an ethicist,
and a military specialist, it became starkly obvious. The ethicist had been proposing ways to hold individual soldiers accountable for everything they did, so they could be tried for crimes against humanity when they broke whatever rules existed. This ethicist has written extensively on the ethics of war, the rules of war (I've read only one of his books, but a couple of his other
shorter papers--as preparation for this discussion, in fact.) He doesn't--to put it mildly--approve of most of the current justifications for war, or the rules of war.  So, in the discussion, when it was soldiers being talked about, he wanted absolute certainty about which soldier
fired which weapon when--to trace the bullet that killed or wounded someone back to the individual who fired it (for example.)  Total accountability.

In a brief segment of the program, I had been tapped to come up with an off-the-wall,
blue-sky suggestion that would spark more discussion. (Boy, did it! As well as hate mail from around the world.  Although things settled down after I posted this a few days later.)   I suggested that since identifying for sure the people that some want identified has been difficult--biometrics change with age and getting a DNA scan of someone isn't always feasible--that implanting/imprinting a barcode at birth would fix that problem. It was not, of course, a serious suggestion--not from me, anyway. 

The ethicist's reaction was instant and strong--making everyone accurately identifiable
would destroy his anonymity, should he wish to be anonymous for any good reason (such as taking part in political protest against a repressive government.)  As I was a long way from the ethicist at the time (I was in a radio studio in Texas; the others were all in London) I could not express my surprise with facial expression, and the moderator was keeping the discussion firmly on track on issues.  Saying what I instantly thought ("So--you want anonymity for yourself but would deny it to others?  Just how is that ethical?") would have been a) rude, and b) changed the focus to personalities.  What I did realize, though, was how strong the desire is to have anonymity for oneself, and accountability for everyone else. Asymmetry. 

This desire leads to the conclusion that It's OK for "my" side to conceal some things the other side would jump on...while I insist that they should be transparent about whatever I suspect they've done wrong. From the other side's point of view, they are justified in maintaining
secrecy and anonymity about their doings, while demanding full disclosure and accountability from me. Very few people really want the rules to be the same for all. Most people want the rules to reflect their opinions. Obvious. But not always obvious, in the heat of emergent situations, when previously polarized opinions become even more impenetrable to reason.

What is obvious is that anonymity and secrecy do cloak behavior someone would disapprove of.  That disapproval may be internal: someone who believes it's wrong to "show off" charity may choose to make anonymous donations to disaster relief or leave cash in a friend's mailbox rather than embarrass the friend by having noticed their financial problems.  The disapproval may be external--donating to a charity that others around the giver think is unworthy (such as, for instance, one member of a homophobic family donating to a charity helping gay youth.) Sometimes that behavior is actually good or at least harmless.  But more often, anonymity and secrecy cloak behavior that the law considers criminal and/or large segments of the population label wrong/unjust/bad.  Anonymous hateful emails fall  into this category but so does "keying" someone's car because they have the "wrong" bumper sticker.   

When people do things they consider good--and have no internal barriers to letting it be known--they don't hide the praiseworthy things they've done.   The kid with a straight-A report card doesn't hide it....or "lose" it.   Someone who's "caught" doing good things in secret will own up to what he or she has done, not try to wiggle out of the accountability. 

Technology has given us more ways to be (or at least feel) anonymous in a very large sandbox--the whole world. And it's given others more ways to uncover that anonymity in the same very large sandbox. We are told to keep personal information off the internet (now we're told that. Too late for those of us who got on in the heyday of "we're all friends here--share everything.") Yet how hard is it really to find out where someone lives? How hard is it to check
the server ID to find out where someone sent that email from? Laborious, in many cases, but not technically difficult--just time-consuming.

When someone becomes interesting to someone else (which doesn't take much--most people are interested in others--not all others, but the ones that pique their curiosity) the clever human at one end will undo the barriers placed by the clever human at the other. (Ask anyone
who's dealt with an angry ex-spouse or any other kind of stalker. They find your phone number; they find your residence on Google-maps, complete with street view; they can search national databases for every likely hiding place.)  Social media, GPS devices now found in many cars, many cellphones, tracking where everyone using them is, constantly (and the tools for third parties to acquire and share those data) are ubiquitous. 

So the possibility of privacy has pretty much disappeared for anyone who is of interest to anyone else, what with cellphone cameras and advanced surveillance gear and online search engines, from locations to contacts.   It's never been easier to reveal what's hidden.  And the cost of anonymity has gone up enormously in one sense, and become cheaper in another.  At the shallow level, the anonymous spammer and the anonymous troll are all over the internet--nuisances, a serious problem to some.  "Pile-ons" on the internet nearly always involve anonymous posts (or posts using fake IDs) and these have resulted in real harm to the victim.  Yet these are fairly easy to penetrate, with most email clients also snagging the IP addresses of incoming mail and comments.  

To have anonymity at a level that works against even moderately competent sleuthing, you have to subvert the system (such as, for instance, the Supreme Court, to make it possible to hide the sources of your campaign financing.) Which takes a lot of money. And even then, contributors may be  only safely anonymous until someone--employee, associate, determined independent investigator--hacks their computers or otherwise "outs" them. 

All this obvious stuff has equally obvious relevance to recent news: the campaigns,
the election, and of course the difficulties in which General Petraeus finds
himself.  No one, these days, can assume his/her activities are private now, or going to stay private.   No one, these days, can assume anonymity--even if achieved for a time--will last forever.   Both the technology that allows someone in a mob in Africa to transmit picture and sound around the world to counter that government's lies, and the sheer number of people on the planet connected to one another in so many ways, makes it impossible to have that assurance.  (Not to mention all the other methods of formal surveillance, from satellites to security cameras to wiretapping, etc.)

We aren't hard-wired--evolution has not prepared us--to be either entirely open or to keep everything (anything?) secret.   So mistakes have been, and will be, made in terms of who we tell, what we tell, how we tell, whether we are the person attempting concealment or the person attempting to penetrate concealment.  Ideally (but not realistically) those who are up to no good will be openly up to no good, and those who are not up to no good will be allowed a private life.  Humans--historically and across cultures--seem to need both some social space and some hiding space.  

More practically, we can look at our own assumptions about who should be granted anonymity or not--and make sure that we're applying the rules (whatever they are) fairly.   If you want anonymity for yourself, don't demand openness of others.  

Comments:  All comments will go to moderation.   The moderator has a life and will get to comments when there's time.   The moderator, having paid for this space, feels no obligation whatever to put up with trolls, hornets, or other unpleasantness.  Disagreement is fine, but courtesy is mandatory.   Hot issues bring out the pile-ons and we're not having one here.  (Yes, this IS the same notice as on a post last week.  Another bit of Truth in Advertising.)
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Published on November 14, 2012 08:59 • 63 views

November 12, 2012

For those who don't follow APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day),  a picture of a quilt depicting a particular solar eclipse...


That is one gorgeous quilt!  A lot of work went into it (goes into any quilt) but that one took my breath away.
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Published on November 12, 2012 22:05 • 37 views

November 10, 2012

To turn the old story of The Ant and the Grasshopper around, here's a grasshopper diligently preparing for the next season by digging a hole in the ground and laying eggs in it.   Hard to be more future-planning-minded  than that.  I was coming back from a bike ride on the land--and the wind was so blustery in my face that I got off in the north horse lot to walk the bike into the back yard instead of riding it.   Hence, I saw this grasshopper before riding right over her as she drilled into the ground right in the gateway.  M. differentialis is common in this area (along with other grasshopper species) and most easily known by the chevrons on the hind legs.   


In the rear view, you can see a little more how the abdomen is extended into the hole she's dug with her ovipositor.   This is the grasshopper that I didn't run over with the bike, because the wind was blowing so hard I was exhausted coming up the rise and got off to walk it into the yard. 

This species is one of the subfamily  Melanoplinae, or "spur-throated grasshoppers."  I'd never been able to see the spur on the throat before, but caught it in the lateral images this time.  Here's a (slightly blurry, as I was focused on the other end of Ms. Grasshopper) photo with an arrow pointing to it.


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Published on November 10, 2012 19:42 • 32 views

November 9, 2012

Two more pairs of socks have joined the Sock Family (or the Sock Project Completion List): a second and different green pair (whose brilliant emerald doesn't, alas, show up in these photos) and a turquoise pair.
The first three pair--red, blue, then green--are in the back stack; the second three--red, medium or denim blue, and the other green--are in the front stack, and the seventh pair, the turquoise, are by themselves.

In another view: 

You can tell that the left-hand red pair is shorter--it was the first pair, and there's not as much stockinette below the ribbing, so the ribbing looks shorter, though it isn't.  They're also the largest in circumference.  No two pairs are exactly alike, as I'm still experimenting a few stitches this way and that.  Wearability--the first pair was worn twice a week (to allow for slow drying) until the second pair was done, and has sometimes been worn twice a week (always once a week) since then--from about the end of March to now.   Each of the other pairs was immediately put into use after it was finished, so that I could wear hand-knit socks all the time.  And they're fine, so far, besides being very comfortable. 

If I could still find 100% wool socks without elastic that fit me,  I would not have the choice of colors shown here (or the other colors I plan to make: purple, yet another blue, etc.)   I know some people don't find hand-knit socks comfortable, but my feet love them.  The turquoise are my first foray into Superwash wool; I hand-washed them for their first wash and blocking, and will put them through the machine after the next wearing.
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Published on November 09, 2012 09:20 • 23 views

November 7, 2012

A victory for union and unity, for compassion, for understanding that "all of us" means "ALL of us".  A victory for knowledge, reason, and kindness over bigotry and ignorance and hatred and fear.  A victory for respect for others, for the freedom of individuals to make critical life choices, for the freedom to vote whatever the color of one's skin, the size of one's income.  A victory for "freedom and justice for all."  A victory for government "of the people, by the people, for the people" with the broadest interpretation of people.   A victory for taking responsibility.  A victory for me...and I firmly believe, for the country and the world.   We can be a much better nation...having voted for this, and not the other.

A defeat for mean-minded separatism, for racism, for lack of compassion, for thinking that "we" means the rich and "those people" don't count and are all lazy bums and leeches on the body politic.  A defeat for being dismissive of "nails ladies" and calling people "animals" (looking at you, rich lady going to a $50,000/plate dinner, and you, smartass young guy at the GOP National Convention throwing peanuts at a black reporter...and everyone else who thinks that way.)   A defeat for Ayn Randism. A defeat for four years of obstructionism, of putting "getting Obama out of office" over the welfare of the American people (another case of mean-mindedness.)   A defeat for class and race arrogance.   A defeat for a campaign founded and sustained on lies--hundreds of them,  some repeated over and over and some denied even when the proof was right there on video.   A defeat for excuses.  A defeat for refusal to take responsibility for behavior past and present.  A defeat for blaming others for those behaviors.   (The blame-game as they like to call it  is already going on in the losing party...it's the hurricane's fault.  It's Gov. Christie's fault.   It's always somebody else's fault when they don't get their way or something goes wrong.)

Victory does not signify perfection (something else the GOP fails to understand--if their guy does get elected, as GWB does, it does not make him God.)   Our President is not perfect.  Fortunately, he knows it.  (Unlike GWB, again.)   But our President is far more qualified than anyone the GOP put on the ballot to be our chief executive and commander in chief.   He is willing to face reality in multiple fields.   He is willing to consider the entire range of the US population--including the ones who hate him (but have generally prospered in the last four years)  when considering what's good for the country.  He can see beyond the next quarterly report.  His policies (hampered through they were by an intransigent Congress) kept this country from falling off the cliff economically and suffering as some EuroZone countries (and others elsewhere) have suffered.

Yes, I was and am an Obama supporter.   From the first time I had a chance to be, at our local precinct caucus over four years ago.   Signed my name on it then, and since.  I'm very glad he won...probably more glad than any previous Presidential candidate I've supported, because the contrast has become so very stark.

Comments:  All comments will go to moderation.   The moderator has a life and will get to comments when there's time.   The moderator, having paid for this space, feels no obligation whatever to put up with trolls, hornets, or other unpleasantness.  Disagreement is fine, but courtesy is mandatory.   Hot issues bring out the pile-ons and we're not having one here.

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Published on November 07, 2012 08:17 • 69 views

November 6, 2012

Haven't posted about NewBike here in a month plus, so here's the latest news on the bike and the fitness program.   NewBike went in for a checkup and came out with a clean bill of health.  I'm still very, very happy with it.  I'm seeing definite gains in fitness (that really showed up during the NYC trip) though I'm not where I want to be yet.

NewBike has proven itself good on trails and on the street both, just as I'd hoped.   I've been able to extend the distance I can ride on the trails on the land (and thus vary the trails) though I still have to stop every few hundred yards (esp. uphill) to catch my breath.  But it doesn't take as long as it did, and I'm able to creep the distance up without exceeding the heart-rate I don't want to exceed (or even reach, most of the time.)   I now regularly go out with a tool or two in the back (lopping shears, pruning saw,  sack of birdseed) and make use of them for our wildlife management project. 

As for street riding, I made it to the Post Office for the first time right before the NYC trip; I put an old briefcase in the back basket to carry the mail back.   That was probably less than a half mile round trip..  Yesterday I made it (combining riding on back streets with walking the bike across the highway and downtown, as it's not at all safe to ride there) to the bank (a little over a half mile) and back by another route to the Post Office, then back to our house.  Two crossings of the highway, one of Main Street (all walked, and one block of Main walked)  and the rest riding.  Somewhat more than a mile total.  That, plus the morning's "land" ride (a circuit of about a half mile) went well.  Today I made the same circuit on the land, and a mile (down the street to Main and back) on pavement.   I was able to go the half mile up slope from Main without stopping.  

Except for concerns about traffic (and I pick the times of day when traffic is minimal)  riding on the street is a lot easier--but riding on the land is more exciting.   Will I make that turn?   Can I steer accurately in the bumpiest parts?  Did I prune that tree up enough, or will it slap me in the face?   (That happened once, I missed a turn in the trail and rode right into the cactus-y area.  But managed to stop before running over or into any cactus.  The tree is now pruned up higher. 

So...progress.  No pictures yet of the expanded range, or street riding, but maybe in another month.

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Published on November 06, 2012 15:28 • 31 views

November 1, 2012

The One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC for short) has been giving tablet notebooks with solar chargers to various schools in Africa and testing the results.

They tried a new experiment in two remote Ethiopian villages where no one--adult or child--had ever seen a written word.  Delivered boxes--taped up boxes--to the villages and left them.  What happened is...well, look:


So the take-home lesson on human potential is this: human children are born knowing how to learn.  Learning is what humans do.  These kids are over-the-roof smart and capable; discovery learning--figuring it out for themselves, self-motivated learning--is part of our human nature.

And we're wasting every kid who--for any reason at all--doesn't learn, doesn't want to learn, is afraid to learn, isn't allowed to learn, is kept from being all he or she could be.

(copied from my post at SFF.net)
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Published on November 01, 2012 09:44 • 44 views

October 31, 2012

This hasn't happened to me before.   Oh, I've had brief yarn problems (a big slub, an inch or so not spun as tightly) but this time....well...look and see: 

I had just started the toe decreases on this sock, when suddenly I had not a strand of 4 ply yarn but a cluster of plies.  You may be able to see that some of the "yarn" visible on the ball is this stuff, and some (deeper in) is perfectly normal yarn.   There's over seven yards of this, (when I took it off the ball to measure it) although I think there's enough normal yarn to finish the toe, after I tink back to a likely area. 

In this closeup, you can see the four plies that--in the rest of the ball--were indeed twisted together, but here aren't.  I'm trying to tell myself that 7-8 yards of this stuff will be useful.   Right now, however, it's a nuisance.
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Published on October 31, 2012 23:18 • 60 views

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