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Kate Orman's Writing CV

Sep. 30th, 2020 | 10:21 am

Published Books and Short StoriesCollapse )
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Books Read, 2017

Dec. 31st, 2017 | 11:55 pm

Time for my annual struggle to remember how to post stuff with a future date. (ETA: Post it, then change the date. It says "postpone", but doesn't postpone it.)

Buchi Emecheta. The Joys of Motherhood.
Franz Kafka. The Castle.
Frederik Pohl. Man Plus.

Running fiction tally: white guys: 2 everyone else: 1

Books bought and borrowedCollapse )
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Feb. 25th, 2017 | 10:41 am

I flew from Sydney to Canberra this week without tranquillisers or panic. Achievement unlocked.
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Links: Random Stuff

Feb. 20th, 2017 | 11:52 pm

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism (The Good Men Project, April 2015). If you're white, like me, this spells out some of the assumptions you've absorbed from the surrounding culture. It's US-based, but much of it applies to Australia. Come to think of it, a lot of it applies to feminism as well, with the important difference that racism is taboo and sexism isn't.

The bacterial flagellar motor: brilliant evolution or intelligent design? (ABC Science, July 2015). "A central tenet of this theory [intelligent design] is the notion of 'irreducible complexity'. This asserts that some biological machines — like the flagellar motor — must be the product of design, because if you were to remove one or two components from the motor it would not function properly, or at all. The logic being, this motor was designed as a whole construction — it didn't evolve through a series of steps, so the individual parts of the motor would serve no purpose on their own. So the creationist argument relies on us finding no evidence of individual parts of the motor having a role outside of bacterial flagella. Luckily, individual components of the bacterial flagellar motor have indeed been found elsewhere. And they work. So the motor is 'reducible', and certainly not 'irreducibly complex'." This is one of my favourite things about evolution - the kludgy use of whatever's in the toolbox at the time. It's why some antidepressants give you tummy trouble; the same receptors are present in the brain and gut, being used for different purposes. (Well, I say "favourite"...)

The Evil Has No Name (The Daemons): Phil Sandifer's review of the story, from five years ago, which I've just enjoyed re-reading and bookmarked because of the observation that Doctor Who is about putting things together which shouldn't go together. That's missing from the SF I'm trying to write at the moment, I think.

Is Nature Unnatural? (Quanta Magazine, April 2013). That is, is there some explanation for the constants in physics, or are they the result of a multiversal roll of the dice?

I'm only two decades late in discovering the Planescapes setting for D&D - somehow I stumbled across this page on the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Salt and it's captured my imagination. Takes me back even further to reading Heinlein's "Number of the Breast" in the eighties.

Rare, lonely 'lefty' snail seeks mate for love—and genetic study (phys.org, October 2016) Not only does the sinistral brown snail have a "left-handed anti-clockwise spiralling shell", but its genitals are on the "wrong" side.

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Links: Language

Feb. 20th, 2017 | 05:11 pm

The Hidden Bias of Science's Universal Language (The Atlantic, August 2015). Talks about some of the problems for scientists worldwide caused by the hegemony of English. I would have liked more specifically about how this affects scientists' thinking - for example, more about why it matters that many languages just transliterate English terms like "quark" and "chromosome" instead of creating their own words: eg Korean 쿼크 kweokeu "quark" but 염색체 yeomsaekche "chromosome" (literally, dye colour body, which is what "chromosome means, of course).

Why There's No 'Right' Way To Speak English (Atlas Obscura, April 2016): "The English language is the ultimate code-switcher, gaining multiple personalities when it travels." Still on Korean (as is my wont), "Konglish" is not the local variety of English, but rather English loan-words. Often these have changed meanings ("I couldn't come because I had a schedule") or are just used with Korean grammar ("I asked one of the staffs.")

The code that took America to the moon (QZ, July 2016) Includes that epic photo of Margaret Hamilton, director of software engineering, standing next to a print-out of the code which is slightly taller than she is. Also many amusing comments by the programmers (and an excellent punchline to the whole piece).

100 Most Essential Words in Anime. (Anime fans, what do you think of this list?)

Why Do Most Languages Have So Few Words for Smells? (The Atlantic, November 2015). "And why do these two hunter-gatherer groups have so many?" IIRC Korean has an adjective - a verb, really, meaning "to smell like roasting sesame oil".

What's the Plural of Emoji? "There is a correct answer, but no one has agreed on it yet." More accurately, there will eventually be a standard plural. Or standard plurals. More interestingly, though, this discusses how loanwords settle into the grammar of their new language (like that singular Korean "staff").

Dolphins recorded having a conversation 'just like two people' for first time (Telegraph, September 2016) The dolphins took turns creating "sentences" of distinct words or phonemes.
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Refugee Update: Actions

Feb. 4th, 2017 | 06:53 pm

GetUp! is asking Australians to mail their MP to ask for the evacuation of refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.

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Refugee Update: Loghman Sawari

Feb. 4th, 2017 | 01:37 pm

Loghman Sawari fled Iran as a minor after his brothers were imprisoned and tortured. Despite his age, he was sent to the detention centre on Manus Island. He was resettled in Papua New Guinea, where he faced violence and homelessness, and attempted suicide. Last week he fled to Fiji to seek asylum, but, perhaps due to a negative press reaction, he was arrested, beaten, and deported back to PNG. At last report (4 Feb) he is being held incommunicado in PNG.

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Refugee Update: the US deal

Feb. 4th, 2017 | 01:06 pm

(I apologise if you hit paywalls with any of these links. Most news sites let you view at least some stories for free.)

Conflicting messages from President Trump and the White House have left both the Australian government and refugees on Manus and Nauru bewildered about the fate of Australia's refugee deal with the US. Refugee advocates have called for the government to evacuate the camps immediately.

Close Manus and Nauru, bring refugees here say 70 organisations (GA, 3 February 2017)

Teen refugee attempts suicide on Nauru after Trump executive order (SBS, 29 January 2017)

'Although we are alive, we are dead inside': Refugees despair at on-off US resettlement deal (SMH, 2 February 2017)

Uncertainty over US deal 'torturing' refugees in Australian camps (GA, 3 February 2017)

Donald Trump refugee deal comments spark anger among Manus refugees and residents (ABC, 3 February 2017)

Manus refugees await US resettlement deal (The Saturday Paper, 4 February 2017) "After three years, those in our offshore detention camps have learnt to distrust the news. On their phones, it comes in waves. The waves are many and contradictory – bringing hope and despair; clarity and confusion. The sum is a permanent disorientation."

US could resettle zero refugees from Manus and Nauru and still 'honour' deal (GA, 31 January 2017): "Terms of agreement do not commit US to taking a single refugee, and Trump’s ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries exclude majority of Australia’s detainees."

Malcolm Turnbull should walk away from refugee deal (ABC, 3 February 2017) "... the road Mr Turnbull now has Australia travelling — that of the supplicant — is against our national interest."

President Trump's executive order temporarily suspending the intake of refugees and indefinitely prohibiting entry by Syrians will have terrible consequences, particularly for families who were poised to enter the US and safety. (A nation-wide stay on the order was granted by a judge yesterday.)

Refugees are already vigorously vetted. I know because I vetted them. (Washington Post, 1 February 2017) "A former immigration officer describes the long, grueling process of gaining refugee status in the United States."

Systematic racism, dehumanisation and Islamophobia (The Saturday Paper, 4 February 2017). "Donald Trump's executive order is the active exoneration of the role that the United States has played in creating dangerous precedents in eroding the civil liberties and human rights of particular sections of society, as well as the responsibility for destabilising a whole region and creating the refugee crisis we see today. This instant memory loss will hurt some of the most vulnerable people in this world, people who have fallen victim to decades of ineffective military strategy."

The Statue of Liberty Weeps as President Trump Targets Mexicans and Muslims (Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, 25 January 2017) | Anne Frank and her family were also denied entry as refugees to the U.S. (Washington Post, 24 November 2015)

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Refugee Update: Pregnant woman on Nauru

Feb. 4th, 2017 | 12:04 pm

For the usual tedious health reasons I can't make it to today's rally, so I'll have to do my activism from my keyboard.

Lots to catch up on. First, some great news:

Pregnant refugee to be flown from Nauru to Australia to give birth (GA, 3 February 2017) | Pregnant asylum seeker on Nauru flown to Australia (ABC, 3 February 2017). On a personal note, I finally broke through the social anxiety barrier and called PM Malcolm Turnbull's office about this. Twice!

Nauru had overruled Australia on the woman's need for urgent medical attention, but then changed their minds and said it was up to Australia. My impression is that they didn't try to stop her being transferred, but just blustered about their notoriously inadequate medical facilities.

The Australian government is playing Russian roulette with women's lives (GA, 3 February 2017). "Since 2015, the government’s policy has been to leave pregnant women, including those identified as extremely high risk, on Nauru. Not because there has been an adequate improvement in the facilities and specialist care available on the island for women diagnosed with high-risk pregnancies, but because the government is instead concerned that if returned to Australia, they may be able to access legal assistance... medical consensus remains that the island is unable to accommodate complicated deliveries. Local Nauran women, for example, are still routinely flown to Australia in complex cases."

On the subject of reproductive health, I think I missed this last year: Nauru scraps proposed abortion laws for refugees and asylum seekers (ABC, 11 November 2016). IIUC, abortion is legal for Nauruan women but illegal for refugee women on Nauru.

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Refugee Update: Urgent!

Jan. 31st, 2017 | 11:12 am

A pregnant woman on Nauru will die if she's not brought to Australia for an immediate Caesarean Section. Please call Malcolm Turnbull's office on 02 9327 3988 (I just did(!) and spoke to a nice lady. Whole thing probably didn't take thirty seconds.)

The Pregnant Refugee On Nauru Is Now In A Critical Situation (Buzzfeed, 30 January 2017)

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