Science

outbreakR — reconstructing insect outbreaks from tree-ring data in R

This R-based project aims to make insect outbreak histories producible using tree-ring data. While still in its early stages (v. 0.2), it currently allows for fast outbreak history reconstructions using outputs from the popular dplR package. All that’s needed is tree-level host data and a nonhost chronology. Sample data are available through Dropbox

If you have any feedback on this version or you’re a researcher who wants to try these methods, please check my contact information at the end!

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Book Reviews, Novels, Video Games

Game Write: Mass Effect — Andromeda: Nexus Uprising

Game Write is a recurring series dedicated to the fiction of game industry veterans. From the best-selling titles of Drew Karpyshyn and Austin Grossman, to the obscure classics of Jane Jensen and Sheldon Pacotti, this series hopes to unearth both the gems and the fluff we tend to leave buried in the credits. In this entry, we review Jason M. Hough & K.C. Alexander’s Mass Effect: Nexus Uprising, a tie-in novel to the newest — and possibly last — Mass Effect game set in the Andromeda galaxy. An immediate prequel to the game, it’s meant to shed light on the near-destruction of the Nexus and its crew, which almost put quashed the Andromeda Initiative’s utopian vision before it could start.

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Science

Preparing dendrochronological datasets in R

In 2017 and 2018, I worked in a forestry research laboratory in Washington State. While I worked primarily with R and specialty software like CDendro, the managers I worked with had little-to-no familiarity with my methods. I wrote this report for them as a means to explain my methods in R and create a pipeline that can be reused across every dendrochronological dataset. I’m sharing this here as a means to preserve that pipeline for future analyses.

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Book Reviews, Novels

The Tiptree Awards: Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night (1937)

There’s a lot to admire with Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night. Published in 1937, she foresaw WWII, the holocaust, the endgame of nationalism, and even the entire plot of George Orwell’s 1984. I didn’t enjoy Swastika Night much, despite that — despite how much I can admire the writer of this story and the ideas it presents.

Set 700 years after ’37, our experience of WWII was instead the Twenty-Year War — a war survived only by Germany and Japan’s diseased nationalism. Hitler won. Minorities have been extirpated except where otherwise desired for slave labor. The German people are heralded as the master race for their pure Blood (with a B). But — even Hitler’s warped, stupid philosophy couldn’t survive forever, and the world of Swastika Night isn’t just a static continuation of Hitler’s racist obsessions. His philosophy was perverted further by subsequent leaders, most notably by an overbearing misogyny.

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Book Reviews, Short Stories

Jirel of Joiry and the uncomfortable roots of feminist fantasy

Jirel of Joiry, an honorable, red-haired, female clone of Conan the Barbarian, could be considered the foundation for all ‘strong female characters’ in genre fiction today, but only in the most shallow sense of the term.

I appreciate that C.L. Moore broke ground in 1930s sword and sorcery, a hyper-masculine genre full of hyper-masculine (read: shitty) men, but any attempt to combat the intense sexism of the genre only goes as far: C.L. Moore was objectively a woman, and Jirel objectively a female character who sometimes swung a sword and killed things.

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Book Reviews, Novels, Short Stories

The Tiptree Awards: Star Songs of an Old Primate (1978)

Star Songs of an Old Primate was the first collection of short stories published by James Tiptree, Jr. after the unmasking of Alice B. Sheldon in 1978. It remains out of print today, but five of its seven stories — “And So On, and So On” (1971), “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” (1974), “A Momentary Taste of Being” (1975), “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” (1976), and “She Waits for All Men Born” (1976) — are currently available in the best-of anthology, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.

I just want to focus on the two unique stories to this collection. For my responses to the five other stories, see my review of Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.

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Book Reviews, Novels

Cyberpunk Roots: Sleaze and cyberwarfare in Dr. Adder (1972)

about what you'd expect, tbqh
This is a book about a ‘glove’ that fires lasers and sexual deviancy.

Dr. Adder is as trashy, stupid and fun as you’d expect from a book deemed too controversial to publish for 12 years.

On one hand, Dr. Adder‘s importance as an early cyberpunk dystopia exceeds its entertainment value. K.W. Jeter wrote it in 1972 while attending college, but it wouldn’t be published until the cyberpunk explosion in ’84. Because of this, the obsession with technology, the casual violence, the Interface-as-Sprawl et al., are all prescient forebears of some of the themes dominating contemporary sci-fi.

But is it a great novel? Not really.

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