5 Interesting Links for 07-10-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Testing (COVID-19)

An explanation of a technique for improving both the cost and speed of COVID-19 testing using pooled test groups.

Checklist (Editing)

An annotated list of eight key elements to confirm when editing your completed book.

Cleanliness (Health)

It might surprise you to learn that a scientist’s research into dry skin led to the conclusion that we’re showering too much. While frequent hand washing is still necessary to prevent the spread of disease, showering as a whole is harmful for the skin microbiome.

History (Policing)

Law enforcement in Medieval England both shows its influence in modern policing and can offer some examples (good and bad) of approaches to reform or defund the modern police force In the United States and other nations. (Via Pat MacEwen)

Racism (Society)

There’s a myth white people tell themselves about modern America, less now with blatant racism at every corner, but it’s still there. I learned the truth of this when I took a year off between colleges and spent several months in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. To be clear, this is (or was?) the liberal side of Virginia. A black family had moved into the suburb where I lived. This family fit all the social criteria for the neighborhood: upper middle class, educated, and well dressed. They looked no different than anyone else…except for their skin color. I did not know them personally. I only learned of their presence afterwards, but despite everything I knew and had seen myself, it shocked me to learn they’d been driven from the neighborhood when literal burning crosses were set on their well-trimmed lawn. It shattered the myth for me, but as a white woman, I can only observe the micro- and macro-aggressions of racism. People who are melanin challenged will never understand what it’s like to experience this directly. That’s why reading this type of article is crucial for training empathy as the best path to understanding.

First Contact Cafe
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Things That Make Me Smile No. 218: Apocalyptic Steampunk Automation

Apocalyptic steampunk automation artist danny huynh shows an incredible talent, whether putting one of his favorite songs to music or allowing us to ride shotgun in one of his creations. Click his name to see his YouTube channel, but here’s one example I enjoyed.

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5 Interesting Links for 07-03-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Europe (Art)

This is less an article to read than the link to a free book from the Chicago University Press. It’s a PDF by an artist that offers a tour of the art of Europe, especially with travel limited during these times of COVID-19. The offer is only valid through July, so check it out quickly.

COVID-19 (Health)

Seeing is believing, so scientists crafted a visual experiment to test various types of non-medical grade masks and their ability to prevent the transmission of fluid across a distance. The methodology is described and results analyzed, and the article includes the video of their experiment as well, in case you want to see for yourself.

Keywords (Marketing)

This article explains how keywords improve your book description and offers tips on finding the best keywords directly or through available tools.

Airplanes (Paper)

If you’re like me, there’s a history of folded paper airplanes in your backstory. Well, in case you’re bored or want to challenge your folding technique, here’s a database of paper airplane designs for practically every situation. (Via Jane Friedman)

Racism (Society)

This is a personal narrative of one white woman’s experience with racism that threatened her black husband. She shares this story to help all of us see just how unequal our system is. No one died, but the different reactions of her husband and sister-in-law spoke volumes about how this is not an unusual occurrence from their perspectives.

Box Set 1 The Steamship Chronicles
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The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

Several years have passed since I read Book 2 of Song of the Lioness. I didn’t remember putting in a hold for the next one, but the library just informed me it was available, so I started reading. Tamora Pierce’s characterization and storytelling show in how I recognized the characters and remembered what had come before with the help of small reminders in the text. Book 3, however, is odd. Where the previous two had a main plot plus an overall series plot to drive them, this story deals with the lingering effects of the earlier events. It gives the main character, Alanna, the chance to come into her own. We also see hints of what the next book will involve.

This is a middle novel, but don’t think that means nothing happens. Alanna goes seeking adventure and finds a different type than she expects, or even recognizes at first. A simple hillman attack in the desert turns deadly because the leader carries a magical sword. It’s only with the intervention of the Bazhir that she and Coram survive. The rescue is more from pot to fire as the Bloody Hawk desert tribe decides whether she should die for the crime of masquerading as a man.

Nor is this judgment the first challenge she faces. Alanna’s placed in reacting positions to several events rather than driving the narrative, though her reactions are true to her character. The one major decision she must make is something she avoids, even when given no choice. Her reactions give the book story, teaching the reader, along with Alanna, about the desert tribes and its traditions. We also learn more about the overall political situation between the northerners and the Bazhir among others, along with inspired solutions.

Alanna is very much a wish fulfillment main character in some ways. She seems able to rise to any challenge and has the special training or skill to succeed. This could have become annoying but doesn’t thanks to bringing the reader along. We see both her process and her struggles. The way Alanna doesn’t assume she will succeed helps, too. Nor does everything go smoothly for her with sometimes severe consequences, something that surprised me because I’d bought into her perfection. And, of course, her cat Faithful is around to keep her humble with sharp observations and a helping hand. Alanna is never long without friends either, showing another of her strengths.

Which brings me to the portrayal of the desert tribes and their customs.

There were places where I worried the northerners were coming in to fix things for the Bazhir, and to some degree that’s true. But rather than change imposed from outside, key northerners join with the tribe through their actions and as a result of Bazhir traditions. While Alanna challenges the gender roles, apart from a few outliers, her acceptance comes not from her actions as much from the tribe’s philosophies. I enjoyed how they absorb the desert’s nature into their culture. Which brings me to another reason I appreciate Alanna. She’s willing to learn and change as well rather than blindly forcing her views on the Bazhir. I loved the portrayal of the desert tribes, united in their connections to each other and the desert, but also individual in their opinions.

This novel holds an odd, but necessary, space in the Song of the Lioness series. Alanna has done the impossible and vanquished her mortal enemy, but she doesn’t celebrate that victory. She both doubts her actions and struggles with the lack of a goal. For a book where there isn’t a clear main plot, the character growth kept me reading, and the connections made, broken, and remade were lovely.

Alanna is a different person by the last page, with a better understanding of herself and the desert people. The Bazhir culture is complex and nuanced, even when addressing tradition and gender roles. Alanna learns to respect their culture even when it conflicts with her views by looking deeper than the surface.

I’m happy to have reconnected with familiar characters and met new ones. This book stands on the shoulders of the previous two, building on earlier events in unexpected ways. A fitting continuation to the series.

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Things That Make Me Smile No. 217: Squirrel Olympics

Enjoy this fun experiment in defeating squirrels who steal from bird feeders. The results are fascinating. The video is longer than my usual, but there’s an important note after the trials.

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