In which I get married

Part 1: In which I have a cough

I graduated a couple years ago. I wrote a dissertation about time-resolved experiments on high-temperature superconductors. I am done with physics. I am switching careers.

Throughout my PhD, I suffered from long-lived coughs. I’d catch a mild cold, get over it, but continue coughing for two months. It got worse over the years and eventually I would just have a permanent cough, if not for medication. I have asthma, and I maintain my health with a combination of fluticasone furoate and vilanterol. It’s a few hundred bucks a month, billed to my insurance company.

Now I’m going to have to explain this, because it might seem wacky to our readers outside the US. In the US, we don’t have universal healthcare coverage, because I guess that interfere’s with Republicans’ civil liberties or something. Health insurance is attached to one’s job, which allows us complete freedom to choose our healthcare plan by, uh, finding a different job.

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My guide to drone music

In lieu of my annual music post (my antidote to Christmas music), I’d like to dedicate a post to the drone genre. I will discuss the challenges of drone, how to appreciate it, and share some of my favorite examples, with an eye towards newcomers. Readers are also welcome to skip the discussion and just try the music.

How to appreciate drone

Drones—sustained tones—are one of the oldest musical elements, and appear in all sorts of music. However the present focus is the modern genre of drone, a subgenre of ambient music that prominently features drones. We should also consider adjacent genres such as drone metal, post rock, and shoe gaze; and examples of drone in (20th century) classical music and film soundtracks.

Some music can be difficult because it’s too complex to figure out, but drone tends to be difficult because it seems there is nothing to figure out. It feels like it’s either one note played for ten minutes, or a single phrase repeated ad nauseum for ten minutes. Do fans of drone just like keeping it simple stupid, or is there some hidden complexity you’re missing? Answer: it’s both.

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Link Roundup: December 2019


Freethoughtblogs has re-opened applications for new bloggers!  Join us!  Applications have technically been open all along, but we had a huge backlog, which we are now clearing out.  The following blogs were just added last week: Andreas Avester, From The Ashes of Faith, Impossible Me.

“An Asexual World”: Asexuality in Death Stranding – I wrote an article about some bad asexual representation in a video game.  Cowritten with Queenie, an expert in Japanese culture.

Blogs & Articles

How Using Tumblr is Undermining Your Community – Oh good, Coyote finally made a list of structural problems with Tumblr.  Tumblr has a reputation (in my view an accurate one) for being a home for many queer and SJ-oriented communities, but that does not mean that Tumblr itself is a force for good.  Tumblr has held our communities back, and people don’t even realize how bad it is because they’re swimming in it.

The good guy/bad guy myth – The article discusses a popular pattern in fiction, where one side represents moral good, and the other evil, and argues that this is a historically recent trend.  Based on the examples, it sounds like there are three parts to this trend: morality as a primary subject matter, characters and sides that embody moral values, and black and white morality.  The article takes a negative view on these trends, but I’m not so sure.  IMO, morality is an excellent subject matter for fiction, and using characters to embody values is a fine technique so long as we realize real people aren’t like that.

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One-sided dichotomies

“One-sided dichotomy” is a term I would like to coin to describe a common situation in public discourse.

My first example is the distinction between second-wave feminism and third-wave feminism. Ostensibly, second-wave feminism describes a movement circa the 1970s, and third-wave feminism describes a movement circa the 2010s. But it should be obvious that feminists in the 1970s did not at the time make any such distinction. This is a dichotomy between two groups, but the dichotomy is only made by one of the two groups. Thus, a one-sided dichotomy.

One-sided dichotomies have a tendency to be unfair, because it is only one side controlling the narrative. The narrative goes that second-wave feminists were primarily focused on equality for wealthy white women, while third-wave feminism is intersectional. But closer examination should show that at least some feminisms of the 70s were intersectional, and some feminisms of the present day fail to be so. Does that mean the dichotomy is unfair, or am I nitpicking?  You decide.

I must emphasize that one-sided dichotomies are not necessarily unfair. A model example is the gay/straight dichotomy, which certainly started out one-sided. Straight people would have rejected the label (“I’m not straight, I’m just normal”) or simply wouldn’t have given it any thought. Now the dichotomy is broadly accepted. Another dichotomy currently following the same trajectory, is the cis/trans dichotomy.

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Origami: Passiflora Ornata

Passiflora Ornata

Passiflora Ornata, designed by Ekaterina Lukasheva

This month, I checked my photo folder for any Christmas-oriented models.  Here’s one, from the days when I couldn’t take good photos, lol.

As you can see, there are four colors of paper: Green, Red (with a white back), silver foil, and patterned green.  The silver foil and patterned green are just small squares inserted directly into the model.  When most people look at this, they think, “Shiny!” but when I look at it I think “Inserts are such a good idea, I should use them more often!”

Against the liberation/assimilation lens

Liberationism vs assimilationism is a historically important dichotomy, which dates back to the gay liberation movement of the 1960s.  It put a name to certain political disagreements among LGBT/queer people that persist to the present day.  That said, in the present day, liberationism/assimilationism is less relevant, just one lens of many that we may apply whenever it seems particularly apt (e.g.).  And often, when we do talk about the dichotomy, we feel the need to re-explain what the dichotomy even is.

Ahem…  In a contemporary context, assimiliationism refers to the desire to blend in with mainstream culture, to emphasize “we’re the same”; while liberationism refers to a desire for more radical change.  A somewhat longer explanation is available here.

A recent video by Rowan Ellis revives the liberation/assimilation dichotomy for the purpose of understanding different forms of queer representation.  I hate it, and it illustrates how the liberation/assimilation lens can go so wrong.

The primary problem, is that “liberation vs assimilation” has largely been collapsed into “good vs bad”, while explicitly denying it.  Rowan Ellis says,

It’s not necessarily that assimilation films are bad and liberation films are good.  […] In the way in which it deals with LGBT stories and identities, for me, the liberation stuff comes up top. (14:23)

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Re-reading Shadow & Claw

After blogging about author Gene Wolfe, I decided to go back and re-read The Book of the New Sun.  I just finished Shadow & Claw, the first two books of the tetralogy.  Hmm… I wrote that blog back in April, so it took me 7 months.  I take my sweet time!

It’s a different experience the second time around.  My recollection of the later books sheds new light on earlier events.  But perhaps more significantly, I felt no need to avoid spoilers, and thus could freely peruse the secondary literature.

It’s surprising just how much secondary literature there is on The Book of the New Sun.  There’s, Ultan’s Library, a subreddit, as well as two full books (Solar Labyrinth and Lexicon Urthus).  And honestly if you just google stuff, you can find discussion in all sorts of places.  Most of which is unreadable crap, of course.  The commentary that I found to be most helpful was the SUNS SUNS SUNS series from a blogger by the name of Kate Sherrod.  Sadly it stops short of the end of the second book, so I guess I’ll have to find something else for the second half.

I have half a mind to write my own blog series, which I think I could do better than most of the internet.  Perhaps it’s not worth my time.  But I will indulge myself a bit with some scattered analyses.

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