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HeLa cells

HeLa cells published on

There’s an interesting interview here (via Ta-Nehisi Coates) about an African-American woman named Henrietta Lacks whose cervical cancer cells were taken as samples in 1951, shortly before her death, and were found to reproduce in a culture so quickly and efficiently that they revolutionized research on human tissue. They called them HeLa cells, and her family knew nothing about it until twenty-five years later, when her daughter Deborah was contacted by researchers who were interested in getting a sample of her own cells.

There is no earthly way that Octavia Butler didn’t know about this when she was writing Dawn. The heroine with whom the frightening, inexplicable alien falls in love/lust mainly due to her body’s fascinating ability to develop tumors? I think that is what a metaphor looks like.

Warning: Ill-natured post.

Warning: Ill-natured post. published on

So I’ve been looking at the message board for a Facebook game.

I know that I yelled at my cold cream the other day, and I made libelous remarks about Octavia Butler due to my displeasure at her having gotten Serious all over me, and I suggested that Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest series might have been the result of a stroke or head injury. And I may have threatened Nalini Singh’s pets.

But… I’m not serious about these things? I think I would feel kind of embarrassed if people thought I was truly distraught about my cold cream, or seriously angry at writers for not meeting all of my expectations. Yet I think these people on Facebook are seriously angry at the programmers of the little farm game.

Continue reading Warning: Ill-natured post.


Discoveries published on

1) Google Chrome is wayyyy faster than Firefox.

1a) But my life depends on search-as-you-type, and that’s presently only available via an extremely jittery alpha plugin.

2) It’s actually pretty easy to write a Second Life bot.

3) I like Metaplace’s aesthetics enough that I’m actually playing the Facebook time-waster game they set up when Metaplace went down.

ETA: 4) CVS house-brand cold cream is scented with something absolutely vile. It’s like citronella mixed with camphor and death. I’m sure they were trying to mimic the rose scent in the Ponds, but they… I actually have no idea how they could have ended up with this. Perhaps someone accidentally hired the mad doctor Jizabel Disraeli from Count Cain as a perfumist.

Anyway, the discovery is that in the future I’m going to have to remember to spend the extra two bucks on the Ponds. Also, try to return this stuff.


Wikipedia! published on

In late 1553 or 1554, Suleiman the Magnificent, the reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, issued a firman (royal decree) formally denouncing blood libels against the Jews.

The Catholic Church denounced blood libels in the 1960s.

– Wikipedia on Blood libel against Jews

(Okay, yeah, there were popes who weren’t happy about it much earlier than that – memorably Sixtus IV, and I do appreciate how there were at least four of Pope Sixtus – but I think the Church as a whole never paid much attention to papal policy on the matter. The blood libel was all local politics.)

Matt Thorn is harsh.

Matt Thorn is harsh. published on 2 Comments on Matt Thorn is harsh.

To publishers of translated manga: You get what you pay for. I’ve heard industry people attribute declines in sales to any number of factors, but never to the quality of their own product. We’re both professionals, so let’s not mince words.

Your product sucks.


He is also accurate.

I re-read Del Rey’s translations of Mushishi and Sugar Sugar Rune recently. I remember being excited when Del Rey announced their manga line, because they’re an established Real Publisher, and I had the idea that the fact that they published prose books would make them a little more sensitive to, you know, prose style. Apparently not!

For the edification of the masses, I am going to assault a page from this scene in volume 3 of Sugar Sugar Rune: 1, 2, 3.

(It contains some spoilers, so don’t go any further if you’re keeping yourself pure.)

Continue reading Matt Thorn is harsh.

I give thanks for my ability to waste time yelling at internet people.

I give thanks for my ability to waste time yelling at internet people. published on

This is the best stupid Second Life argument I’ve ever been in.

I’m just pleased with how my last sentence there turned out. And the intended recipient will never read it! She is too busy being wrong on the internet someplace else.

In case you are in danger of not spending all your money,

In case you are in danger of not spending all your money, published on

I should let you know that Amazon has released a PC reader for Kindle-formatted books. They have also made it impossible to turn off the one-click order button. I accidentally read two vampire books.

I am not responsible for my actions! They contain certain specific tropes!

Shocking Update: Yahoo domain registration still sleazy.

Shocking Update: Yahoo domain registration still sleazy. published on

They just tried to charge me for a domain they don’t manage again.

Fortunately, this time through I’d erased my debit card number from Yahoo Wallet. (I had to use it to renew my Flickr a couple months ago, but I remembered to erase it again afterwards.) Not having anything to charge, they instead sent me a “Past-Due Payment Notice” demanding $35. For the domain I transferred last year!

(For those who don’t feel like clicking the link, the last time this happened they just charged me without warning, and I had to contest it on PayPal to get the money back – because, since I don’t actually have an account with Yahoo Small Business, Yahoo Small Business customer service won’t talk to me.)

To summarize Yahoo’s domain registration behavior thus far:

1) Yahoo offers a “private registration” option, which allows you to keep your real name and mailing address out of the WHOIS database. It is impossible to transfer one of these private domains to another registrar. Ever. (See my post from last year, or this guy’s post from 2007.)

To effect a transfer, you have to downgrade the domain to a non-private one, thus revealing your personal information. This means that if, for any reason, you’re in a position in which you can’t allow your real name and address to become public – say: you’re being stalked, you’ve expressed certain uncomplimentary ideas about your employer on your blog, you’re a Venezuelan political dissident, you’re an oil industry whistle blower, you’ve converted to Islam or Linux or come to some conclusions about your sexual orientation and your grandmother is an Old Regular Baptist Microsoft project manager who’s waiting in line for a heart transplant – you can’t leave Yahoo for another registrar.

2) According to this blogger, Yahoo will also expose your real name and address if you allow your domain registration to expire.

So, if for some reason you can’t allow your real name into WHOIS, you also can’t cancel a privately registered Yahoo domain.

Continue reading Shocking Update: Yahoo domain registration still sleazy.


Kentucky published on

Reading the Huffington Post thing about the census worker story, I got to this line:

“I don’t think distrust of government is any more or less here than anywhere else in the country,” said Silver, a sociology professor at Southeast Community College.

My first thought was, “I bet the guy doesn’t have tenure.” My second one was, “Well, maybe he’s just kind of sheltered.” My brain was not being snippy or anything! It didn’t have time to be snippy.

You seriously do have to be pretty out-of-it to think that. I also note that this happened two frigging weeks ago, and I have no recollection of WYMT (local news station) covering it at the time. This place is just two hours away, and it’s not exactly a normal crime. This should have been on TV. There’s an article on their website as of today, and the comments are so far unusually short on the right-type craziness and long on the left-type – there’s only one person in there saying stuff about ACORN. I guess the strategy is to ignore it and hope it goes away.

I do so swear.

I do so swear. published on

Whitewashed casting again wheeee.

Today I make a solemn vow before my patron saint, the internet: on the remote chance that I ever sell a book, and then get an offer to have it optioned it for a movie/TV show/etc, I will allow it only if there is clear language in the contract stating that,

1) the characters be cast the same races they are in the books,

and 2) that the non-white ones’ roles will not be minimized in favor of the white ones.

There will also be language stating that they have to remain the same gender and sexual orientation. And that there won’t be any un-called-for rapes or rapping or suchlike. (Called-for rapes and rapping and suchlike are fine, they just can’t be applied to female and black characters for whom it would be inappropriate. For instance, the deaf psychometrist pro gymnast raised by a former Chan Buddhist monk whose long-lost father is, like, somehow Longinus.

If that were an actual character, rapes and rapping would not be appropriate there.)

Should I break this vow, may my very soul be forfeit, and may the internet dogpile me in whatever manner seems reasonable given the technology of the future. Like, I’m assuming that by this time HTTP protocols will support physically slapping you for things like a particularly bad YouTube comment. Presumably the technique will be applied to my own situation in sort of the era’s equivalent of a Rickroll. Also people can refrain from buying my book.

My life is just this really long series of unusual stains.

My life is just this really long series of unusual stains. published on

I don’t know what’s on my shirt. It’s white, and it’s in kind of a ring from my shoulderblades to midway down my back, and it’s gritty. It hangs just outside the edges of the obligatory upper-back sweat-stain I get when I haul the backpack around in hot weather. The placement is wrong for it to be something that came off the backpack. Tentative working theory is that not all the detergent got rinsed out in the wash.

Also, I went to a park again today. It was very nice. I then went to the Shinjuku Isetan to look for junk food, but it turns out that the world’s most expensive department store has not miraculously become cheaper since last week! Yes, I was surprised, too. They were charging completely inappropriate prices for taiyaki and I ended up having to call the police. I bought my cake and tiny box of soymilk at the station.

I went to the most Tokyo place in all of Tokyo yesterday. Please take turns guessing where I think that is while I work up the necessary energy to tag and upload the pictures.

The Happiness Realization Party

The Happiness Realization Party published on

I wince and have to leave the room when American politics does stuff like this. Not so with Japan, apparently! I guess I don’t take it so personally.

Japan’s Happiness Party plans to attack North Korea

Urging the “immediate” amendment of the pacifist article 9 of the constitution, Mrs Okawa, 43, said: “So-called pacifism in Japan will let other countries easily kill Japanese people. We believe that we have a responsibility to protect the lives of the people in Japan.

“If we think about our goal for creating global utopia on this planet, pacifism won’t help.” Such an amendment would pave the way for Japan to deal with the growing military threat to national security presented by its neighbours, added Mrs Okawa, who according to the organisation’s literature is a reincarnation of Florence Nightingale and the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

They’re sort of like if the Libertarian Party and the Scientologists merged to form a bigger robot. My understanding is that they started out as a religion called “Happy Science” (Ohkawa Kyoko’s husband Ryuho being the reincarnation of Buddha, with whom Florence Nightingale is apparently down) made a lot of money selling books, and then went into politics. The sort of politics where you blow up North Korea! Ohkawa Ryuho claims that Kim Jong Il’s guardian angel has betrayed him and is reporting Kim’s plans to him (Ryuho). I hear he got the idea from Phantom-Thief Jeanne.

They send out gaisensha (街宣車), or sound trucks, which are basically trucks with loudspeakers mounted on top. If you look the word “gaisensha” up in EDICT, it’ll say “right-wing propaganda truck” – they’re used to advertise more normal stuff, too, but my impression is that the outlier political groups are particularly enamored of loudspeaker technology. Most gaisensha are pretty aggressive-looking, with lots of black and yellow and stuff. The Happiness Realization ones have a soothing blue color scheme, like they’re selling handsoap. Judging from the description, the person who posted that video thought the truck was pretty funny.

There was a really alarming truck going around Shibata in the spring that ended half its sentences with “Tomerarenai!” I generally can’t follow what the gaisensha are saying, but “Can’t stop! Can’t stop! Can’t stop!” kind of stood out. I never got a good look at the truck itself, but the speaker was a woman, which is unusual, so it might have been a Happiness Realization truck. There are some videos of them on YouTube – if someone with a working sound card wants to look at them and tell me if they say “Tomerarenai,” I would be interested in knowing who or what they cannot stop. I’m assuming that whoever that was was not, in fact, referring to hammer time.

They also made an ad that’s a “hypothetical story” about North Korea nuking Japan. As the little doomed salaryman peers out the window at the oncoming nuke, he thinks, “If only I had voted Happiness Realization!” It’s classy stuff.