Patronizing History: Rise of the Rocket Girls

I’m currently reading Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt, the #wlclub pick for May. I wrote this post for the #wlclub google group and decided to store it here as well because it’s about a thousand words on how to patronize female historical subjects and exploring how/why that may happen.

Continue reading Patronizing History: Rise of the Rocket Girls

desk lunch – 2015-08-27

Brought to you this week by books. James Nestor’s nonfiction book on freediving and the ocean took longer to read than I expected, but then I devoured Nora Ephron’s Heartburn literally Saturday into Sunday. There’s a movie based on Heartburn, but it’s one of those books that is such a book that I can’t bring myself to watch it right now. Also, Meryl Streep as Nora Ephron and Jack Nicholson as Carl Bernstein? Let’s… not. (This has nothing to do with imagining the wrong actor from All the President’s Men as Carl Bernstein throughout the entire novel. Nope. Totally unrelated.)

Now I’m on Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and with that I will have finished all of Jane Austen! Now that I’m reading it, I’m glad I wasn’t in a rush to get through with Northanger Abbey– it’s so much more ironic and absurd than every other Austen, starting with the author’s note and sinking all the way through into every sentence. I don’t want it to end.


One of the more subtle underlying issues with the rise of Uber is the company’s slow siphoning of the political will to fix existing—or build new—public transit infrastructure in major cities…. As the wealthy—and, as the prices of Uber and Lyft fall, the slightly less so—essentially remove themselves from the problems of existing mass transit infrastructure with Uber and other services, the urgency to improve or add to it diminishes. The people left riding public transit become, increasingly, the ones with little or no political weight to demand improvements to the system.

I chose a particularly cynical quote to excerpt from this piece on the future of Uber/the privatization of the public transport infrastructure, and I made that choice because this is where Uber hits me, right now, in 2015. Fortunately, Philadelphia’s cab system has an app that’s just as convenient as Uber, and it’s still providing regular maintenance to its public transit system, but for how long? That’s really what this piece on The Awl gets at: if Uber is the future of public transit in urban areas, what will it look like in the very near future as public transit collapses but Uber still isn’t any more affordable for those who can only afford public transit?


There’s always been a link between privilege and mobility within the arts. If you are an artist, you are lucky if you can afford the time to work on your craft, and even luckier if you can afford the supplies required of your craft, and even luckier still if you are able to afford to respond to calls for conferences, residencies, and colonies.

This excellent essay from The Rumpus on the cost (financially, day-job-professionally, personally) of attending writers’ residencies. It articulates each of the thousand human complications that ensure I’ve never applied for a residency: what would happen to my job in the meantime? My apartment? My friends? Where would I get the money to pay for it? For expenses there? As prestigious as something like Bread Loaf has always sounded, the odds of being in the 5% who qualify for financial aid has never seemed worth the effort of applying.


It’s been a week and 26 million views, but seriously: have you watched One Direction’s video for Drag Me Down? It’s not news that the song itself is a jam and a half, but when the video premiered last Friday, I was shrieking way more intensely about the gratuitous use of NASA all over the place.

Best of all, this wasn’t a one-way arrangement! Official NASA twitter seemed to have tons of fun promoting their toys and the video all morning. I adored our anthropomorphized space program enough to Storify the moment.


desk lunch – 2015-07-16

Brought to you this week by SPACE i love space.

with a still, restrained, almost annoyed sigh, what voice in what 
wilderness, minutest cricket, most unworthy flower I will never be tired — I will never be noisy I will be your best little girl — 
nobody else will see me, but you — but that is enough — limitlessness, wilt thou say,

ah, ladies, good night, good night, good night ladies —
and who therefore know the biology of the soft matter and the cluster of creation in its salty stellar lonely archive is matched by the sweet violence of thought,
who transubstantiated across the desert with both of them finally under the deep clear her blonde beauty and the celestial betrayals arrayed stellar, Andromeda chained naked to a rock, the Pleiades shedding to doves to stars,

The reinterpretation of Ginsberg’s “Howl” that I absolutely wanted forever and ever.

As long as scholars think of consciousness as a magic essence floating inside the brain, it won’t be very interesting to engineers. But if it’s a crucial set of information, a kind of map that allows the brain to function correctly, then engineers may want to know about it. And that brings us back to artificial intelligence. Gone are the days of waiting for computers to get so complicated that they spontaneously become conscious. And gone are the days of dismissing consciousness as an airy-fairy essence that would bring no obvious practical benefit to a computer anyway. Suddenly it becomes an incredibly useful tool for the machine.

I sent this to my brother. Him: “Ok but has someone invented the app that will care about this for me?” THANKS BRO.

Really, though, I fell into this headfirst, start to finish, because that concept of the singularity always bothered me- that there was no solution to making machines and software self-aware, just that if we made them fast enough, it would happen, and that sounds too much like irrationality and magic. The piece from Aeon argues that creating an artificial consciousness means treating consciousness not as a spark lit only within humans, but as a property of our supercomputing brains’ processors that allows us to filter and focus in a way that we’re just barely getting computers to do.

Next pointless research excursion: how did people describe the human brain before computers?


Remember analogue photography? What a nightmare.


Speaking of technology, because it’s that kind of week: PLUTO.

Emily Lakadawalla has written and tweeted about everything going on with Pluto and New Horizons this week. I’ve read so much of her work this week that when I finally saw her at the NASA press conference livestream SPEAK WITH HER HUMAN VOICE AND ASK A QUESTION I got weirdly emotional like meeting an internet friend for the first time. Anyway. Highlights:

Next press conference with the first lossless images will be 1PM EST Friday! SCREAMING.