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Sunday, November 27th, 2022

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Profile on Octavia Butler (vulture.com)

Really enjoyed this piece, and it reminded me I'd been meaning to read Butler's series "Lilith's Brood." Here are a few excerpts I feel worth sharing, and also a few notes I jotted as I read.

When she learned she could make a living doing this, she never let the thought go. Later, she would call it her "positive obsession" and would put it all on the line. Her mother's youngest sister, who was the first in the family to go to college, became a nurse. Despite her family's warnings, she did exactly what she wanted to do. That same aunt would tell Butler, "Negroes can't be writers," and advise her to get a sensible job as a teacher or civil servant. She could have stability and a nice pension, and if she really wanted to, she could write on the side. "My aunt was too late with it, though," Butler said. "She had already taught me the only lesson I was willing to learn from her. I did as she had done and ignored what she said."

Butler would grow up to write and publish a dozen novels and a collection of short stories. She did not believe in talent as much as hard work. She never told an aspiring writer they should give up, rather that they should learn, study, observe, and persist. Persistence was the lesson she received from her mother, her grandmother, and her aunt. In her lifetime, she would become the first published Black female science-fiction writer and be considered one of the forebears of Afrofuturism.

"I never bought into my invisibility or non-existence as a Black person," Butler wrote in a journal entry in 1999. "As a female and as an African-American, I wrote myself into the world. I wrote myself into the present, the future, and the past." For Butler, writing was a way to manifest a person powerful enough to overcome the circumstances of her birth and what she saw as her own personal failings.

Writing a best seller was a constant preoccupation — a way to make life financially sustainable. "I need something that sells itself," she wrote. "Something that screams its significance or its scariness or its timeliness so loudly that it can't be ignored."

Science fiction can be categorized into three types of stories: "What if?," "If only," and "If this goes on." The first Xenogenesis book, Dawn, was born from Butler's horror at the Reagan administration's notion of a "winnable nuclear war" — the worst imaginable scenario of "If this goes on."

This bit resonates with me given how I voraciously skim articles and social media and consume articles and writings online, like this biography on Butler:

When she was looking for ideas, Butler would do what she called "grazing," which in practice meant having any number of books open around the house and perusing whatever might be of interest to her: environmental science, anthropology, microbiology, Black history, political studies.

There is no excerpt of note, but I find it interesting that in one of her books she wrote about a fascist President who had the last name 'Jarret' - only one T, but it still is notable.

11/27/2022 8:33 am | |
Tags: author, scifi, octavia butler

A look at what makes cephalopods so smart (mdc-berlin.de)

Very interesting to read. The most clear example of how diverging biologies can still end up with similar results, or find new and interesting ways to do something.

11/27/2022 9:02 am | |
Tags: science, marine biology

"Debate world champion explains how to argue" (bigthink.com)

11/27/2022 9:21 am | |
Tags: debate, conversation

Article from 1980 about Viktor Belenko, who defected with a MiG to the States (archive.macleans.ca)

Although the freedom and responsibility given to sailors aboard the aircraft carrier surprised Belenko, something else stunned him even more—that sailors not only had a choice of food, but that they could eat as much as they wanted. He suspected another ruse and decided to test the system. Along with his CIA guides, Belenko walked through the self-service line, filling his dinner plate. He then found a table and sat down to eat. Then suddenly he jumped up and ran through the line again. When no one paid him any attention he filled up another dinner plate and returned to the table.

I am reminded of a time back in the 90s when I was a kid, probably 10-12ish. I was at a Golden Corral restaurant. I watched as a family came in with a kid who looked a few years older than me, probably a teenager. He looked around in awe at the giant buffet.

"Wow! There is so much!" He exclaimed as he rushed off. I overheard the adults talking, he was adopted from Russia, and they had just gotten off their flight back, so this was his first American outing.

11/27/2022 11:21 am | |
Tags: world politics, cold war, ussr

Advent of Code (adventofcode.com)

Like NaNoWriMo, this is 25 days in December of coding puzzles. I have known of it but haven't ever participated before, so I'm not exactly sure what I'm in for. I intend to participate with Javascript, as an exercise to improve my skills there for working with it as more than just for on-page shenanigans.

11/27/2022 12:39 pm | |
Tags: programming, programming, christmas

Photography for Geeks (lcamtuf.coredump.cx)

A great introduction and discussion on photography basics and how to improve your composition and photography skills.

11/27/2022 6:24 pm | |
Tags: photography, teaching

Elwood and Ozzie love fireplace season

11/27/2022 6:43 pm | |
Tags: dogs, photo

Mastodon Favs for November, 27th 2022

11/27/2022 6:45 pm | |
Tags: mastodon, social media, automated

A fascinating thread of an antifascist researcher looking at the bonkers "Nazi" list circulating on Twitter (threadreaderapp.com)

The person's summary for what to do if you find yourself in possession of a "Nazi list."

  • as a general rule of thumb, don't post even edited Nazi content unless you know what you're doing or have talked to someone who does
  • warn privately. Don't post Nazi lists to Twitter don't tag people for them, don't amplify lists. Warn via mutuals if you must
  • practice humility (researchers, this is for us). No one gets it right 100% of the time, not even the pros. Be real about your experience level, ask more experienced folks to vet your work regularly.
11/27/2022 9:55 pm | |
Tags: nazi, antifascism, twitter, social media

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