Dear News, stop trying to entertain me.

No, really. Stop it.

I don’t need flashy graphics, scary music and breathless reporters. I don’t need to “Find out after the commercial break!!”

I don’t want you to be the first with your breaking news and speculations.

I *really* don’t want you to interview heartbroken relatives, shell-shocked neighbors and terrified kids.

Ever.

You don’t need to make this a human interest story. You don’t need to create false suspense.

It is a human interest story already. Anyone with a heart and a mind is already interested.

You don’t need to relate it to local people. What is local in the age of the internet? When we can watch our friends tweeting from lockdown? When we can read their fear in Facebook updates and see through their eyes on Instagram?

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Star Stuff and the Beauty of Ideas

My tattoo - spells out "I am star stuff" in amino acids. Photo by Colin Schultz

My tattoo –  “I am star stuff” in amino acids. Photo by Colin Schultz

There are many beautiful ideas in science.  We see them as beautiful because they seem to have some sort of unifying force. Or because they’re simple and elegant. Or because some talented writer put words to them that are so perfect that they ring in our heads as we go about our day to day life. But most importantly, they’re beautiful because they’re true.

The idea that strikes me as the most beautiful is one that has been said by many, many scientists, in many many ways.

As Carl Sagan said, we are all star stuff.

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Social Media, Silence and Tragedy

My cat, in her Fortress of Solitude. Following the grand internet tradition of expressing emotions through cat pictures.

My cat, in her Fortress of Solitude. Following the grand internet tradition of expressing emotions through cat pictures.

Social media creates an interesting paradox. It allows us to express emotion communally. To work through fear and confusion and anger and sadness with likeminded individuals, in a way that would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. When I watch a tragedy unfold, I can’t help but take a step back and look at how people are relating to it, and to each other.

I don’t comment on it, most of the time. In fact, I don’t say anything at all, most of the time.

I’m sure it makes me look callous, and unfeeling. Or at the very least self-centered and oblivious.

And therein lies the paradox. Social media creates a communal place to pour our emotions. To share them, and to work through them publically.

So what about those of us who don’t do public emotion?

Those of us who, when faced with something horrible happening are just as likely to stare dumbly at the imparter of the news and mold their face into some approximation of sadness or sympathy, or whatever is the expected outward expression of our inner turmoil

I’m not saying that I don’t feel sadness for the lives lost, or anger at the person or people who did hurt others. I’m not saying I don’t sympathize with those who feel pain or fear that something else is coming.

I feel it. Intensely. Deeply. To the point of paralysis.

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Cosplaying While White

Photo by Paul Cory

Photo by Paul Cory

 I am lucky.

I look like 90% of the women on the big screen, the small screen, on the covers of novels and in the pages of comic books.

I am white, skinny and have learned how to use makeup (as well as a few laser surgeries) to cover the birthmark on my face with which genetics graced me.

That doesn’t make me a good cosplayer.

In fact, it means that I can be a little more lazy with my costumes than someone who doesn’t share the basic physical characteristics of a character.

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Ignorance, Explainers, and Knowing What We Don’t Know

One of the most interesting parts of being a knowledge omnivore is discovering a blind spot. You can be pursuing some obscure technology that existed for 5 years at the turn of the century and suddenly you stumble on Omnipresent Bit of Modern Life That You Do Not Understand. At All.

That was me, last week. I’ve been researching the real technological roots of Steapunk science for a talk I’m giving at the Steampunk Empire Symposium at the end of April. I found myself down a rabbit hole of dead end steam tech innovations when I started wondering how we switched from external combustion engines (aka steam-based) to internal combustion engines. So I started looking up the early history of internal combustion. The first thing I noticed was that internal combustion engines were developed much earlier than I thought they were (1876 for the gasoline engine and 1878 for diesel! How cool!). The second thing I noticed was that I was lost when the articles were talking about variations on internal combustion engines.

Completely and totally lost.

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