Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

Google Apologizes for Offensive Map Search Results

Google Maps had to apologize again last week, this time because searching for racist terms gave results like the White House and Howard University. The results were derived from online discussions: idiots using an offensive term to describe a place associated the term with the place in Google’s search algorithms. Google says it’s changing the algorithm to fix the problem (because algorithms are to Google what procedures are to bureaucracies — the source of, and solution to, all life’s problems). Boing Boing, Engadget.

Previously: Google Map Maker Program Suspended.

John Lanzendorf’s Paleoart

Atlas Obscura has a profile of John Lanzendorf, a lifelong collector of paleoart. At one point the largest private collection of paleoart was crammed into his 1,250-square-foot Chicago apartment; in 2001 it was acquired by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. A book about the collection, Dinosaur Imagery, came out in 2000.

Aurora Award Nomination

The finalists for the 2015 Aurora Awards have been announced. My little fanzine, Ecdysis, has been nominated in the Best Fan Publication category.

Aurora nominee logo The Aurora Awards are essentially the Canadian equivalent of the Hugo Awards. They’re voted on by members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association; and voting takes place much as it does with the Hugos. They’re awarded at Canvention, the Canadian national science fiction convention, which takes place as part of an existing convention. (As I understand it, the French-language Auroras are administered separately.)

The Auroras are a small award in the grand scheme of things (inasmuch as sf fandom can have a grand scheme), but this is my first genre award nomination, and I have feels.

My thanks to the Aurora voters who thought Ecdysis worthy of an award nomination. I really should emphasize that my collaborators made this fanzine a far better product than it would have been if I had done it on my own — in particular my partner Jennifer, who contributed her distinctive artwork (in many ways this fanzine was an elaborate scheme to get her to draw more), and the thoroughly magnificent Tamara Vardomskaya, whose brilliant pieces for Ecdysis far outshone mine.

Ecdysis #2 coverEcdysis #3 coverEcdysis #4 cover

I’m especially delighted to be on the Fan Publication ballot this year because there is a Fan Publication ballot this year. There wasn’t one last year (nor was there one in 2008 or 2011). Under the rules, a category needs a minimum of three eligible nominees, each of which need a minimum of five nominations. Last year there were only two nominees that met that threshold. This year we have a full slate:

I’m pleased to be sharing a ballot with these folks.

Fan writing is an important part of a healthy genre, particularly when it’s independent of industry concerns. It’s a resolutely non-pecuniary activity, and awards like these are one of the few ways we can support and encourage it.

Voting on the Auroras requires membership in the CSFFA. It costs $10 to join; joining also gets you access to the voter package, just like the Hugos. The Auroras will be handed out in November at SFContario 6, the host of this year’s Canvention.

The Martian

Just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir. Good Lord it’s a lot of fun.

Book cover: The Martian During this year’s Hugo Awards foofaraw, there was some disappointment expressed that this book was not on the final ballot. That was not because Hugo voters were out to snub a book full of the good old stuff and lacking in social justice virtue, or whatever — it was simply ineligible. The Martian was first self-published electronically in 2011. But don’t weep overmuch for Andy Weir: after brisk online sales, both traditional publishing and Hollywood started paying attention. He got a six-figure advance for the hardcover edition, which came out in February 2014, and the movie adaptation comes out this November.

And it’s not hard to see why. The book chronicles a lone astronaut’s struggle to survive on the Martian surface after an accident leaves him stranded there, and the attempts to rescue him. It’s chock-a-block with technical detail — Weir did a lot of research, and the Mars program in the book reflects a lot of the proposals I’ve seen — and MacGyveresque solutions to problems. It’s written in a light, breezy and entertaining (if not necessarily felicitous) manner. Characterization and prose quality are not among its virtues — it’s basically an Analog story without all the Analog baggage — but Weir manages to maintain real tension while interleaving it with some legitimately funny moments; in many ways it manages to out-Scalzi John Scalzi at his own game. It’s a fun book — just what I needed right now.

The Martian
by Andy Weir
Crown, February 2014
Buy at Amazon: Canada, U.K., USA (paperback) | Goodreads | LibraryThing

Clichéa

Clichéa

A Redditor called Sarithus has created a map of Clichéa, “a map based on fantasy tropes that also pokes a little fun at unoriginal map makers.” Like others of its kind, it hearkens back, probably undeliberately, to early modern maps of Cockaigne and Schlaraffenland and other satirical maps. Cartographer’s Guild thread, Reddit thread.

Previously: The Only Fantasy World Map You’ll Ever Need.

Google Map Maker Program Suspended

Google is temporarily suspending Map Maker, its tool allowing user contributions to Google Maps, until they fix their edit moderation system. Auto-approvals of map edits had been suspended in the wake of the notorious and high-profile edits to the map near Rawalpindi; since then edits to the map have required manual approval, which has created a massive backlog. “We believe that it is more fair to only say that if we do not have the capacity to review edits at roughly the rate they come in, we have to take a pause.” Via The Verge.

Previously: Google Maps Edits Cause Embarrassment; A Google Map Maker Roundup.

Approaching Ceres

Ceres

The Dawn spacecraft’s trajectory is slowly edging it closer to Ceres. This is one of a series of images of Ceres taken between April 24 and 25 from a distance of 8,500 kilometres. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Previously: At Ceres.

Historical Highway Maps of Manitoba

Detail from the 1966-1967 Official Highway Map of Manitoba

While looking for something else, I stumbled across the Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation Ministry’s Historical Highway Maps of Manitoba site: a collection of PDF scans of dozens of highway maps of the province. The earliest is a 1926 map produced by the Winnipeg Tourist and Convention Bureau; the most recent is the B version of the 2010 Official Highway Map. Collectively they trace the development of the province’s road network: I got so very lost in this site watching the road network change from year to year — just as I did as a child, when I studied each new edition to see what had changed from the previous year. This is a weapons-grade hit of nostalgia for me.

Above, a detail from the 1966-1967 map, the first to use the style of map that I was familar with growing up in the 1970s.

Previously: Manitoba Historical Maps.

The Great Snake Weigh-in of 2015

Male Okeetee corn snake: 778 grams.Female checkered garter snake: 368 grams.Lucy the bullsnake: 1.537 kg

This month Jennifer and I started doing something we’ve been meaning to do since the fall of 2013: weigh all the snakes in our menagerie. It’s something neither of us has ever done before; we’d had vague ideas of the approximate weights of our various critters, but that’s about it.

Our method was pretty straightforward: tare the scale, stick the snake on it, and take its picture. Those of you who follow me on social media will have seen the photos already; I’ve assembled them into a photo album here.

Continue reading this entry

Review: My Real Children

Book cover: My Real Children My review of Jo Walton’s My Real Children is now up at AE. My Real Children came out a year ago, but it just won the Tiptree Award, which made doing the review more timely; AE’s review policy doesn’t limit itself to new releases in any event.

Rereading the book for this review was an interesting experience, as was writing the review. This is the kind of book that could generate several different reviews that each focused exclusively on a different subject. It wasn’t just that I was scratching the surface — I was scratching just one surface.

Older Entries

Taxonomic Changes to Crayfish, Swamp and Earth Snakes
‘1491’ Is Becoming a TV Series
Google Maps Edits Cause Embarrassment
Map of Canada Changes Depiction of Arctic Sea Ice
Valentina Lisitsa and Artists’ Social Capital
New Moon Maps
Chopin’s Preludes on a Pleyel
Space Maps: Ceres, Mars, Exoplanets
Back to Brontosaurus
Ecdysis 5
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph
Irwin’s Controversial Legacy
A Cometary Closeup
Charge Revealed in N.B. Python Case
Various and Sundry (Again)
Backbench Conservative Hijinks, and How to Respond to Them
At Ceres
Unruly Places (Off the Map)
Emily Garfield’s Map Art
Map Anniversaries