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Ep. 38 - S.O.S.

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denismm
15 days ago
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Crying laughing.
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The Unicode Blog: Out of this World: New Astronomy Symbols Approved for the Unicode Standard

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By Deborah Anderson, Chair of Unicode Script Ad Hoc Committee In January 2022, the Unicode Technical Committee approved five new symbols to be published in Unicode 15.0. With the projected release date of September 2022, these symbols are based on newly discovered trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) in the Solar System. They resulted from research efforts such as those led by astronomer and professor Dr. Michael Brown at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech). These five objects orbit the Sun at a distance far larger than the major planets. They are currently believed to be large enough to be round, planetary worlds, in a category of objects called “dwarf planets” that also includes Ceres, Pluto, Eris and probably Sedna. The most famous trans-Neptunian object is Pluto, which historically had been considered to be the ninth planet from the Sun, but was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).[1]

[Pluto image]

How did this happen?

Individuals or organizations who want to propose new characters have to check existing characters to avoid duplicates, find out if there are equivalent forms already in existence, and most critically, determine the need for a digital interchange of them, such as symbols that have been encoded for use by NASA and other agencies. The proposal authors then must submit a proposal that articulates how their request meets the criteria. Once a proposal is submitted, the Unicode Technical Committee determines whether to review the proposal and accept or decline it. This process can take a couple of years or more. In the case of these five characters, the proposers demonstrated the need, clearing the path for approval. 

Tell me more about these new characters. What are their names?

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has standard conventions for naming objects both within and outside of the solar system. Objects orbiting the Sun outside the orbit of Neptune are named after mythological figures, particularly those associated with creation. But the subset that orbit in a two-to-three resonance with Neptune — the so-called “plutinos”, such as Pluto and Orcus — are named after figures associated with the underworld. In this case, the five TNOs, ordered by distance from the sun, are named:
  • Orcus: the Etruscan and Roman god of the underworld.
  • Haumea: the Hawaiian goddess of fertility; the telescope used to discover this object is located on Hawaiʻi.
  • Quaoar: an important mythological figure of the Tongva, the indigenous people who originally occupied the land where CalTech is located.
  • Makemake: the creator god of the Rapanui of Easter Island.
  • Gonggong: a destructive Chinese water god.
What information is there on the actual symbols that will be available? All five symbols were designed by Denis Moskowitz, a software engineer in Massachusetts who had previously designed the Unicode symbol for Sedna. He drew inspiration from existing symbols and the “native name or culture” of the objects’ namesakes [2] to create the characters.

[TNO glyphs image]

Denis explains his inspiration for each symbol below:
  • Orcus: The symbol for Orcus is a combination of the Latin letters “O” and “R”, stylized to resemble a skull and an orca’s grin.
  • Haumea: The symbol created for Haumea was a combination and simplification of Hawaiian petroglyphs for “childbirth” and “woman”.
  • Quaoar: The symbol is the Latin letter “Q” with the tail fashioned into the shape of a canoe. The angular shape is intended to reflect Tongva rock art.
  • Makemake: The Makemake symbol is a traditional petroglyph of the face of the creator god Makemake, stylized to suggest an “M”. The design was a collaboration with John T. Whelan.
  • Gonggong: Gonggong’s symbol was based on the first Chinese character in the god’s name, 共 gòng, with a snaky tail replacing the lower section.
What else should we know?

The five symbols supplement a set of other characters for planetary objects that were published in 2018 (Unicode 11.0) and earlier. Two of the newly approved characters appear in a NASA poster. Other people have used the symbols in various media, including tattoos and art. Ultimately, these five new characters will join the 149,180 other characters in the Unicode Standard Version 15.0 and be accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, who is using a computer or mobile device.

Where can I learn more?


Acknowledgments Special thanks to Sarah Rivera and Kirk Miller for their contributions to this blog.
Over 144,000 characters are available for adoption to help the Unicode Consortium’s work on digitally disadvantaged languages

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denismm
20 days ago
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Glad to see someone else excited about this enough to share it.
acdha
18 days ago
Newsblur is definitely where I expect to find other people interested in Unicode arcana
denismm
18 days ago
Agreed, though in this particular case I’m the person who invented the symbols in question :)
acdha
18 days ago
Oh, yeah, I was vague about that - I noticed your username earlier but didn’t really say that. What I was trying to express was that it was profoundly unsurprising to see the kind of person who submits new symbols here
denismm
18 days ago
Haha, yes.
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Girl Genius for Wednesday, April 13, 2022

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The Girl Genius comic for Wednesday, April 13, 2022 has been posted.
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denismm
45 days ago
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Is this a trope yet? https://www.grrlpowercomic.com/archives/comic/grrl-power-880-variable-lethality/
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1 public comment
jlvanderzwan
45 days ago
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Does Lucrezia-clank know Agatha no longer is possessed?
radeldudel
41 days ago
How should she? Her Clank body was gone when they depossessed her...
jlvanderzwan
39 days ago
Right, that's what I figured. I guess that's why she's happy to see Agatha then

On Edward Snowden

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I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.

Nathan Hale

Nearly ten years ago, I supported Edward Snowden – at least, at first. I wanted to believe he held deep convictions, and was unfairly targeted by the state for standing up for those beliefs. We’ve since been proved fools for it. For all the pontificating about freedom that Snowden has done on Twitter and in interviews, his silence since the beginning of the war with Ukraine speaks volumes. Are we really to believe a former NSA contractor somehow can’t figure out the Internet in Russia? Clearly not. Yet what the world needs right now are people to speak out, to spread information, and to use their influence to inform and persuade those they can reach. Rather than enlighten, Snowden has chosen the path of silent compliance with Russian law, and in doing so traded in the same free speech he has so hypocritically called America to task for over the years. One cannot act the part of hero for holding convictions and then run away from every form of accountability. Snowden’s silence is the second time he has run away from demonstrating any real convictions, making me wonder if he had any in the first place.

During his time in Russia, we have seen the whistleblower system work effectively here at home. The details of Trump’s Ukraine call, and the subsequent freezing of security aid seems rather relevant today. More impressively so, the whistleblower system worked against a sitting president having no capacity for restraint. The fruits of it were significant, and the process brought both public dissemination and a full press by congress to protect the whistleblower. Mr. X, whose identity is still somewhat contested, was a hero. He stood up to the bully, knowing better than most how lawless the tyrant was, and of the angry mob he commanded. What happened to X? Very little, even less compared to the charges Snowden brought on himself or the freedoms he gave up when he abandoned his country under the Obama administration- who was a teddy bear compared to Trump. Snowden stood on the illusion of moral ground, insisting the whistleblower process was corrupt, pleading for the support of his countrymen. In 2020, he expected the same pass from America in applying for Russian citizenship “for the sake of his kids”. Yet even in being proved wrong by a true hero like X, while the country lived under a tyrant, Snowden continues to hide from the consequences of his acts of hubris.

What kind of example is it to set for one’s children- acts of cowardice and abandonment of one’s country? Is this someone who deserves the support of America, or to be hailed a hero in The New York Times? Snowden is neither a hero nor a traitor, but rather a deserter who made immature decisions about government process. He could have had more impact had he chosen to remain in the US. He could have more impact today as well, but chooses silence as an alternative to standing up for what is morally right. I am much less inclined to support a pardon for him than I was in 2013. Rather, I would tell him to come home and face the consequences of his actions, and set an example for his children of what holding convictions really means. Ideals are meaningless without sacrifice.

Alas, Snowden will never come home of his own volition. He will never come home, because he already is home.

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denismm
66 days ago
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I’m not judging anyone who can’t easily leave Russia for not speaking up. I have no idea what pressures are on them or what dangers they face.
fxer
66 days ago
The article makes that point pretty clearly: this is the path Snowden chose, and continues to choose, for himself. He has agency, he’s not living in an abstract void where things only happen *to* him
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Full-Rhyme and Ribbons

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I’ve been trying to read through all the early novels and poems written by women which have won Pulitzer Prizes. (There were quite a lot more of them in the 1920s and 1930s than later on.) This brought me to Margaret Widdemer whose collection of poems The Old Road to Paradise won the Pulitzer in 1919 (before it was even called the Pulitzer). I could only find a copy locally in a volume of her selected works so I got to hear a little of her different voices, in between her introduction discussing how she ordered the poems and how she introduced the sections and the poems themselves. (She put all the most widely-requested ones in a section of their own. I’m so tickled, both that she had, well, requests, and that she was so thoughtful for her readers.)

In this collection, I found one of two poems she included titled “Search”. (Scan of the poem available here.) I keep coming back to it and I wanted to share why it works so strongly on me.

The first four lines are very typical of their time, I’m assuming, and today they are the sort of thing that would make many people skip over this poem: rhymed couplets, iambic tetrameter (I do love tetrameter). Plus, she’s describing a very girly dress (“in wide bows like a butterfly”). Perhaps I was willing to keep reading because of the context I was in, meaning I was already flipping through a book of metered, rhymed poems, but the emotion that went along with the careful description of the dress really deepened in line 9: “I could put out my hand by night / and find it”. That’s a dress she really loves, that’s a dress that’s more than just cloth.

Lines 10 and 11 were special for me, for their specificity and for the difficulty. She is recalling where to find the dress:

Between my Leghorn on the wall

And Mother’s heirloom China shawl

I don’t know what a Leghorn is, I have to look it up, it’s a particular type of straw hat, but the proper name is magical here, next to an heirloom. So now I really want to understand the importance of the dress. Not just cloth, not just a pretty gown, so important she can find it without sight, she can picture where it waits for her. The description of the gown’s location continues to be very specific, ending with “In the blue room on the third floor. . .”

And that ellipsis is part of the poem. Widdemer purposefully trails off there. Which, of course, has the effect of propelling me on to read faster (at least, the first time, I slowed down there on subsequent re-reads, in anticipation). Ellipsis is a type of punctuation I don’t recall seeing often as a sign of a turn, it’s fascinating.

And then the speaker tells us how “hard to reach tonight” that room is. It’s “at such a height” and “two flights of stairs” away. And this is where Widdemer’s genius, to me, rattles my bones. The penultimate couplet of the poem reads:

I’d have two flights of stairs to climb,

And seven weary years of time

It’s a masterful use of full rhyme, in my opinion, effortlessly surprising the reader (well, me) with two transitions, a physical one and a mental one. In that one line, Widdemer stretches out this description of a dress into the life of the dress, the life of the speaker. That beautiful gown was seven years ago. It is still hanging there now but there is a difference even as the gown is still as loved.

But Widdemer does not stop there. There is more between that gown and today than just stairs of time. She closes the poem like this:

To find it, and the girl-heart, lit

With gay unwisdom, under it.

These are the first two lines in the poem with internal punctuation, slowing the reader down. These are the first two lines with some invented (non-standard) English words. Widdemer has taken what perhaps feels to a reader from today as a nursery rhyme, full-rhyme and ribbons, and written the reader right into its pain.

(exhale)

I can’t help but come back to the title of the poem after the final line. Because it is a bit of a boring title, it is not one that I feel most readers would stop at in a table of contents. And, at the beginning, it is clear we are searching for the dress, the first line says so, explicitly. But, by the end of the poem, we know that the dress is not cloth. And, perhaps because I am so moved by those final lines, I feel like the dress is not simply the speaker as a younger person. The lost dress may be youth, or naivety. It is most certainly light and joy.

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denismm
178 days ago
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You should stop deflecting compliments and do this instead

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There’s a way to accept a compliment graciously that doesn’t make you seem full of yourself.

There is growing evidence that compliments benefit both the giver and the receiver, but that people give fewer compliments than they probably should. In my last piece for Fast Company, I focused on some factors that might make people shy away from giving compliments. Now, I want to turn to what you should do if somebody compliments you.

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denismm
201 days ago
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Saved you a click: say “Thank you, I really appreciate it” and then credit anyone else on the team if you’re a leader. Don’t minimize your accomplishment.
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