Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

Geologic Map of Mars

Geologic Map of Mars

As I said during the Q&A part of my fantasy maps presentation at Readercon (see previous entry), maps of other worlds in the solar system are usually images from space probes that have been set to a map projection. The key word is usually. On Monday the U.S. Geological Survey released a geologic map of Mars that “brings together observations and scientific findings from four orbiting spacecraft that have been acquiring data for more than 16 years.” Via io9 and Wired.

Readercon 25

Jonathan Crowe on the Readercon panel I had a very good Readercon. I was a nervous wreck leading up to it, because I had to rewrite the fantasy maps presentation from the ground up. (The first draft was too long and too unfocused. Thanks ever so much to my beta testers who pointed out its flaws the Sunday before the convention.)

Fortunately the presentation on Friday night went off without a hitch — the computer connected properly to the projector, I forgot to stammer — and was very well received: one person called it “probably my favorite event of the con,” which is astonishing when you consider that the con in question is freaking Readercon.

(My presentation also seems to have resulted in Wesleyan University Press selling out its on-hand copies of Stefan Ekman’s Here Be Dragons, which was referenced heavily.)

The Thursday night panel on maps in fiction also seems to have gone over well, based on what I’ve been hearing. It’s not always easy to tell if a panel goes well when you’re leading it: even if it doesn’t turn out the way you expected it to, as was the case here, it may still be a success if the audience enjoys it. Which appears to have been the case. If nothing else, I managed to emit something quotable:

As for the context of that remark, if you weren’t there, I’ll leave that for you to figure out. (I’m working on something along those lines, let me just say.)

For my final panel on Sunday morning, I joined my fellow panellists in a discussion of spoilers. I found myself jumping in and throwing little idea bombs into the discussion, hopefully not too annoyingly or in too derailing a fashion. I saw Scott Edelman recording it on video (the photo above is his) so you may well see the whole thing online at some point.

Meanwhile, I took photos sporadically: here’s the photo album. (Goes without saying that I didn’t bring a camera to my own panels.)

I’d say more, and in more fulsome detail, but I’m off to Detcon 1 in the morning, so this is all you get for now. (This is entirely too little time between conventions.)

Previously: My Readercon 25 Schedule.

Astronomy in the Pontiac

Whatever the quality of the Pontiac’s roads, its skies are very good for astronomical observing — especially when you consider how close we are to Ottawa. From my backyard, which is not well shielded from porch and street lighting, I’ve gotten magnitude-five views with the naked eye — suffice to say, the Milky Way is in fine form during the summer. (Clouds are a wrinkle, though: they never fail to turn up during neato ephemeral events.)

In that vein I note with interest a group called AstroPontiac, and its Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to buy a roll-off roof observatory and a couple of telescopes. They’re trying to raise $12,500, which seems modest, but their goal of providing a site for amateur observing is fairly low-cost, considering. Ottawa Citizen coverage.

Mapping It Out

Book cover: Mapping It Out In Mapping It Out: An Alternative Atlas of Contemporary Cartographies, out now from Thames & Hudson, editor Hans Ulrich Obrist invited contributors “to create a personal map of their own, in whatever form and showing whatever terrain they choose, whether real-world or imaginary.” Examples of the results can be found on the websites of Design Week, FT Magazine and the Guardian; the New Yorker has posted an excerpt from Tom McCarthy’s introduction.

Again with a Sinkhole on the 148

Route 148 sign In June 2011, heavy rains washed out a portion of Route 148 between Luskville and Quyon, forcing traffic to detour along narrow gravel roads for more than two months. At the time I noted that had the washout occured east of Parker Road rather than west of it, no detour would have been possible: westbound traffic would have had to double back to Gatineau, and eastbound traffic would have had to take the Eardley-Masham Road or the Quyon Ferry.

In April 2013, a sinkhole opened up on Route 148 about a kilometre east of Alary Road; once again traffic was rerouted along local roads for more than ten months, and once again I noted the following:

Had there been a sinkhole west of Alary and east of Parker, no detour via back roads would have been possible; all traffic to and from the city would have had to be rerouted via La Pêche or Renfrew. You couldn’t get from the eastern end of the Municipality of Pontiac to the western end without going through Gatineau. Fortunately that stretch of the highway doesn’t appear to have any culverts.

Turns out I was wrong about that stretch not having any culverts. Yesterday heavy weather tore through our region, generating a microburst that damaged houses. This morning another sinkhole opened up on Route 148.


That’s right: between Alary and Parker. No detour along local roads is possible, because there is no local road network between those two roads. The Pontiac has effectively been cut in half.

On its home page, the Municipality of Pontiac reports that the MTQ is working on a by-pass that might be ready by tomorrow. Which is good, because otherwise we’re in for a real mess this summer, especially if it takes the two-plus-months to fix the damn hole that it took the last two times.

If a by-pass doesn’t open, anyone commuting from west of the sinkhole to, say, Aylmer just got an hour added to their already long commute, and travellers will have to choose between a long detour via Wakefield and Masham, the Quyon Ferry (which luckily reopened less than two weeks ago), or the long way around past Renfrew, to get to and from this region.

CBC News reports that Pontiac Mayor Roger Larose warned provincial officials a month ago about the culvert in question. But the Municipality of Pontiac should shoulder some blame for the lack of a local road network. That Alary and Parker needed another connection, that the stretch of the 148 between those two roads was vulnerable, should have been apparent after the 2011 washout. It should be really flipping obvious now.

Additional news coverage: CFRA, CTV, Radio-Canada, Le Droit.

Update, July 4 at 3:50 PM:

Police for the MRC des Collines report that one lane of Route 148 has been reopened to traffic. See earlier reports from CBC News and the Ottawa Citizen about the construction of the temporary, single-lane bypass.

My Readercon 25 Schedule

Readercon 25 is less than two weeks away. Now that the program schedule has gone live, I can tell you what I’ll be doing there. Quite a bit, as it turns out. And not coincidentally, there is quite a bit of map-related programming.

Continue reading this entry

Are Water Snakes Invading California?

Two species of water snake have apparently been introduced to California. A new study published in PLOS ONE assesses the risk to native habitats and wildlife by identifying local habitat that would be suitable for the invasive species.

Water snakes are mainly found in the eastern half of North America: they come no further west than the eastern parts of Colorado and New Mexico. On the west coast their ecological niche is filled by large, aquatic garter snake species like the Sierra, giant and two-striped garter snakes (water snakes themselves can functionally be seen as large, aquatic garter snakes: fewer stripes, more attitude).

So how did water snakes establish themselves in California? The researchers attribute it to the release of captured pets. I’ve kept both of the species in question — northern (Nerodia sipedon) and banded (N. fasciata) water snakes — but water snakes are not all that popular among snake keepers. I’m amazed that enough snakes were kept in California that a sufficient fraction were able to escape or be released, and a sufficient fraction of that fraction were able to survive long enough to reproduce. Not that I’m saying it’s impossible, or even unlikely — if nothing else, water snakes are seriously r-selected, and can really pump out the babies — I’m just boggled by it.

It’s a Very Nice Ferry

New Quyon Ferry

After many delays, the new Quyon Ferry opened for business over the weekend. The two small boats that used to have to swing around to dock and required Tetris-grade parking maneuvers on the deck have been replaced by a larger cable ferry with double the capacity. Driving on and off is now very straightforward, and trucks and trailers can finally cross. Photos here.

Previously: Quyon Ferry Photos.

Long Hidden

Book cover: Long Hidden I support greater diversity in science fiction and fantasy, and I have to confess that one of my reasons for doing so is selfish: I want more interesting stories to read. The field is at its least interesting when it’s a monoculture (we can’t all be responding to Heinlein and Tolkien); it’s at its most interesting when it includes authors from diverse backgrounds and experiences, who use those backgrounds and experiences to inform their work. It’s a win-win situation: more people see themselves in the fiction they read; readers benefit from being exposed to other backgrounds; the field as a whole gets stronger.

But Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History doesn’t just bring us diverse fiction, though it certainly does that; it brings us fiction from the margins. Let me explain: diverse fiction might include a story from Japan; fiction from the margins might include a story about a Japanese minority like the Ainu.

Continue reading this entry

Finding Longitude

Book cover: Finding Longitude Major map exhibitions are frequently accompanied by lavishly illustrated books: London: A Life in Maps and the Magnificent Maps exhibitions had their eponymous books (London: A Life in Maps and Magnificent Maps), and the Chicago Festival of Maps was accompanied by Maps: Finding Our Place in the World.

No surprise, then, that “Ships, Clocks and Stars: The Quest for Longitude,” an exhibition opening at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich next month, also has its accompanying volume: it’s called Finding Longitude: How Clocks and Stars Helped Solve the Longitude Problem, and it comes out later this week. It’ll be interesting to see how this complements Dava Sobel’s Longitude, a short history of the Longitude Prize and Harrison’s chronometers (my review).

Older Entries

Heinlein and His Biographer
Montreal Reptile Expo
Western Canada Aviation Museum
Bullsnake Eggs and Other News
Mapping Gotham
Testing the King Hypothesis
Review: The Map Thief
Growing Kitten Is Growing
Four More Map Stories
Narcisse Snake Dens
Game of Thrones Map Marker Set
Questionable Practices
The Chimney Swifts Return
2013 Nebula Awards
A Book About the Forbes Smiley Affair
Another Crash on the 148
Ecdysis 3
Roland Charles Crowe, 1916-2014
Therapy Snakes Redux