Happy Birthday!

Jeanne of Body and Soul turns, um, 21-ish today. If you don’t read her regularly, do yourself a favour and start. She’s smart and funny and a committed progressive with a keen eye for the really important issues. If you’re at all like me, you want to be politically well-informed but you simply don’t have the time to do the requisite reading. The answer is filters/trusted agents/whatever they are being called now, and Jeanne is one of mine. I rely on a small number of bloggers for my world and national political news, and seldom even glance at mainstream media outlets any more; Jeanne is a must-read for this purpose. I’d pick out posts to whet your appetite, but really, they’re all good. Go read.
Happy birthday, Jeanne!

Assholes are everywhere.

Erikawhite.jpgWhen Erika Thereian changed her Second Life skin from white to black, other things changed. Friends became distant, men made assumptions about her sexuality that they hadn’t previously made, and there were blatant racist attacks:

“Well, I teleport into a region,” she says, recounting a latter case. “Where a couple people [are] standing around.
“One said, ‘Look at the n***** b****.'”
“Another said ‘Great, they are gonna invade SL now.'”

Erikablack.jpg I was gobsmacked by this. If you’d asked me to predict what would happen, I’d have said nothing much — I’d have assumed that a virtual world would be much more open minded, less prone to prejudice, than the Big Blue Room. I suppose, in retrospect, it’s not so astonishing that there are assholes everywhere — but I bet no black person would have been surprised. None of Erika’s black friends were.
Tell me again how there’s no such thing as white privilege?


If you’re reading this by RSS, you are using the old feed (https://sennoma.net/main/index.rdf) — it should perform exactly as the new feed (https://sennoma.net/main/index.xml), and should do so indefinitely, but if I were you I’d update the subscription anyway. The spousal unit worked some unholy juju to make this happen, and you know how unreliable black magic is.


When I started this site, I intended to go for the funny a lot more, and to get much more closely in touch with my inner asshole. Turns out that isn’t good for me, and “malice aforethought” doesn’t describe me or what I want to do here very well. It wasn’t a great choice of name: I am not a malicious person, nor do I want to play one on the internets. So, after due consideration, I’ve changed the name of my blog. (If you link me, I’d appreciate it if you’d update. Sorry for the inconvenience.)
Most of my posts here concern science or politics, so I was going to call the site “The Art of the Soluble” after Peter Medawar‘s remark that “If politics is the art of the possible, research is surely the art of the soluble. Both are immensely practical-minded affairs.” Unfortunately, Sir Peter used that title for a famous essay, so I consider it taken. (Comparisons are invidious, particularly when I suffer by them.) Thus thwarted, I settled on another horrible pun (an open reading frame is, basically, a stretch of nucleic acid that can be translated into protein), and unless someone is already using it here I will stay.
Other changes: I am no longer anonymous, in English or Esperanto. (I still think my original idea for a website would have been interesting if I’d stuck to it, but I didn’t, so.) I am becoming very interested in the role of blogs and other online communications tools in professional scientific research, and it’s simply easier to use my “real” name with my colleagues. I also plan to add a links feed from my Furl account (update: I’m using Simpy and Feed2JS now, and posting linklogs every so often instead of a feed so that I can have comments and trackbacks) and update the blogroll and the categories. Let me know if there’s anything else you think I should do (comments are back on, muchas gracias to the spousal unit for the various upgrades).

Friday Poetry: John Betjeman

Rob joins jo(e) and friends (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and no doubt many that I missed) in a new1 meme-y thing, Friday Poetry Blogging, that I like the look of.
Since his Collected is sitting on the desk in front of me, here’s Sir John:
The Cottage Hospital
At the end of a long-walled garden
   in a red provincial town,
A brick path led to a mulberry—
   scanty grass at its feet.
I lay under blackening branches
   where the mulberry leaves hung down
Sheltering ruby fruit globes
   from a Sunday-tea-time heat.
Apple and plum espaliers
   basked upon bricks of brown;
The air was swimming with insects,
   and children played in the street.
Out of this bright intentness
   into the mulberry shade
Musca domestica (housefly)
   swung from the August light
Slap into slithery rigging
   by the waiting spider made
Which spun the lithe elastic
   till the fly was shrouded tight.
Down came the hairy talons
   and horrible poison blade
And none of the garden noticed
   that fizzing, hopeless fight.
Say in what Cottage Hospital
   whose pale green walls resound
With the tap upon polished parquet
   of inflexible nurses’ feet
Shall I myself be lying
   when they range the screens around?
And say shall I groan in dying,
   as I twist the sweaty sheet?
Or gasp for breath uncrying,
   as I feel my senses drown’d
While the air is swimming with insects
   and children play in the street?

In a Bath Teashop


I encourage anyone who has been tagged with the “four things” doohickey to pass this back up the line; I think perpetrators should have to come up with four new things (at least in the first four categories) every time another victim passes it back!
Four books I’d buy a friend

  1. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  2. Narziss und Goldmund, Hermann Hesse
  3. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  4. The Moon and Sixpence, Somerset Maugham

Four books I’d buy an enemy (on condition they had to read ’em)

  1. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  2. A Million Little Pieces, that guy who was all over the news recently
  3. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
  4. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne

Four pieces of music I’d miss if I went deaf

  1. Tabula Rasa, Arvo Part (played by Shaham/Anthony)
  2. In A Landscape, John Cage (played by Stephen Drury)
  3. Are You The One (That I’ve Been Waiting For)?, Nick Cave
  4. Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pink Floyd

Four pieces of music that make me want to gnaw out my own eardrums

  1. Do You Believe, that Cher thing
  2. Popcorn (I like it, but what an earworm)
  3. anything with a breakbeat
  4. anything by Kenny G

Four pet peeves

  1. people who stand right in front of “No Smoking” signs, smoking
  2. people who stand at the front of the bus when there’s room to move back
  3. the phrase “very unique”
  4. Kenny G

Four things I like that other people commonly find weird or horrible or both

  1. vegemite
  2. Neil Diamond
  3. stale cookies (pre-fungus, though, of course)
  4. high humidity on a hot day

Four popular things that I think are weird or horrible or both

  1. oysters
  2. snow
  3. reality television
  4. Kenny G

Spousal unit, I’m looking at you!


I would be safe from this kind of thing, down here at the far end of the blogosphere’s long tail, but for the spousal unit and her irritating habit of having sociable friends. I appear to have married a popular person. How’d that happen?
Anyway, grrr, but I pretty much cannot say no to my wife, so:

Four jobs I’ve had

  1. streetside hot dog seller
  2. janitor
  3. proofreader/copyeditor for scientific mss
  4. research scientist

Four movies I can watch over and over

  1. Lilo and Stitch
  2. Cool Hand Luke
  3. Jesus of Montreal
  4. Lawrence of Arabia

Four places I’ve lived

  1. Madang, Papua New Guinea
  2. Gracemere, Australia
  3. Sydney, Australia
  4. Portland, Oregon

Four TV shows I love

  1. Firefly
  2. Wonderfalls
  3. A Touch of Frost
  4. PBS’ Now, before it was gutted

Four places I’ve vacationed

  1. Kuwait
  2. Jersey (Channel Islands)
  3. Amsterdam
  4. Northwest Island (on the Great Barrier Reef)

Four of my favorite dishes

  1. rice and beans
  2. vegetable soup (spousal unit’s version)
  3. cheese, tomato and onion sammiches
  4. saag paneer

Four sites I visit daily
my Bloglines account keeps me in touch with some 200 sites; here are four I particularly recommend:

Four places I would rather be right now

  1. wherever the spousal unit is
  2. Brisbane, with some friends I miss very much
  3. Northwest Island
  4. Amsterdam

Four bloggers I am tagging
I’ll have to think about this some more. I’ve decided not to pass it on, for reasons made clear in the next entry.