I’ve been so crazy-busy on I’m Running Late today that my computer locked up and I was bored so I decided to watch some Doctor Who, which is what everyone should do when they’re waiting for a computer to behave.
I could have continued on with The Mutants, but I was feeling nostalgic to see again how it all began and see the source of my first cosplay, Ian Chesterton. I love Ian because he’s a Science Teacher and that suits me as a Scientist who runs The Science Book Club. Plus, I was enthralled by my very dear friend Ilona, who cosplays a simply smashing Susan! I must admit, I’ve been thinking about Ilona a lot recently so I guess it’s no coincidence I pulled up the first Doctor Who story ever, which of course features Ian and Susan.
Of course, Ian was always fond of Barbara and we’ve had a lot of trouble finding a Barbara cosplayer but I’m always happy to have find someone cosplaying The First Doctor for photoshoots. But usually it’s just me and Ilona and I have always felt we make a great team. That’s why she’s my cosplay bestie.
Meanwhile, not much actually happens in the story. A student is acting queer, the teachers investigate, and the Doctor kidnaps them. Not much more to say to that. Or maybe I was just too busy reciting the lines with the actors, I’ve seen the episode so often. Overall, a fun story, with light bits and campy students. I always enjoy that one and will watch it again… and again… and again…
As promised, I took the seventy-nine—yes, seventy-nine, as my good friend Nick Harding pointed out, one of the fifty that I nominated on Friday was already scheduled for our June discussion so I eliminated it from the poll and the tallies. Anyway, I set up the poll Friday but didn’t want to put it out until today to make sure I had the right instructions ready.
This year, the poll is a little different again from last year, time for the annual Science Book Club poll. Last year, you got one twelfth of a point, about an 8.3% boost in your score for each meeting you attended in the last year.
This year, to simplify things, I decided to simply give a 50% bonus to anyone who attended at least four (non-fiction science) meetings in the last year, and 100% bonus if you attended all twelve. I can verify this because I require everyone to list their name on Meetup so I can correlate the records. Further, if you’ve not logged into the meetup site in the last year, you will get a 50% diminishment of voting power. Also, if you overuse the max or minimum “veto” scores (currently set to a maximum of ten), then you also suffer a 50% reduction. Finally, if you’re not even a member of the Science Book Club, I will allow you to vote but you will be biased to 10% of normal.
Thus, if you, like one member currently, attended at least four meetings but voted for more than ten books the the maximum or minimum (veto) rank, you would end up with a 75% bias, meaning your votes count for 75% as normal.
The reason I added the penalty for too many “veto” votes is because this year we have a seven point system. The seven point system goes from one to seven with the following relations. If someone doesn’t vote for a given book, it’s score is assumed neutral.
Ranking of Votes in the 2020 Science Book Club Poll
Beyond that, pollsing is pretty much the same as last year, albeit with more choices and more options. As of this writing we have five votes but I hope to have many more by the time the poll closes on or just before 14 June.
Last year, when we were setting the schedule for the Bowie Bevy of Brainy Books, I went through my Audible back catalog and by my calculations, there are 209 titles in my library that I’ve yet to listen to. Some of these are scheduled in my upcoming meetup events but most are gathering dust as I am busy with the official book club list of titles.
Now that it’s time to chose the 2020–2021 Science Book Club. Although I run that meetup and have run it for longer than the founder Megan Thaler, which still amazes me, I always allow a democratic decision on the series of books we read, always scheduling the top 10–12 to form the cycle for the following 11–13 months, with December reserved for our retro cycle books.
I should explain, the Science Book Club has been running since 2009 and has a tremendous back catalog, and although I didn’t attend every meeting, I have attended every one since I began running it in the Summer of 2013. As such, I have a general rule that we can’t do any book we’ve done before in the group as part of the main eleven month year. Also, I require that books be published within the last ten years. I am a little lenient on this in terms of allowing books technically eleven years old given that I’m planning for books into 2021 but allow books from 2010, but no earlier. But official, the rule is no repeats, no fiction, and no books older than ten years. If a book fails any of those tests, it goes into the December book bin, were I allow anything goes!
After winnowing out all the older books, the Great Courses and Fiction books in my back catalog, I was left with fifty books the Science Book Club has never discussed and are at most ten years old. The are as follows:
[Medicine] The Case Against Sugar (Gary Taubes, 2016)📖🕮💻💿🏢/384
[Sociology] God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (Penn Jillette, 2011)📖🕮💻💿🏢/256
[Neurology] The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery (Sam Kean, 2014)📖🕮💻💿🏢/416
[Neurology] The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human (V. S. Ramachandran, 2011)📖🕮💻💿🏢/384
[Mathematics] Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data (Charles Wheelan, 2013)📖🕮💻💿🏢/302
[Chemistry] The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II (Denise Kiernan, 2013)📖🕮💻💿🏢/400
[Medicine] Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them (Jennifer Wright, 2017)🕮💻💿🏢/336
The long and short of that is, to enter fifty new books into the nomination queue is a very tedious affair and took me so many hours yesterday, I forgot to post my note about TeslaOS 2020.20.5 on Thursday.
For the record, my fifty entries were appended to the end of the existing seventeen moniations already made or carried forward from the last poll. We are, therefore, in addition to the above, also considering the following books:
[Physics] Through Two Doors at Once: The Elegant Experiment That Captures the Enigma of Our Quantum Reality (Anil Ananthaswamy, 2018)🕮💻💿🏢/304
[Genetics] Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (George M. Church, Ed Regis, 2012)📖🕮💻🏢/304
[Genetics] Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize (Sean B. Carroll, 2013)📖🕮💻🏢/592
[Biology] The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World (Andrea Wulf, 2015)📖🕮💻💿🏢/496
[Evolution] From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds (Daniel C. Dennett, 2017)🕮💻💿🏢/496
[Technology] Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (John Carreyrou, 2018)📖🕮💻💿🏢/352
[Biology] The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species (Carlos Magdalena, 2018)📖🕮💻💿🏢/272
[Sociology] Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions (Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths, 2016)📖🕮💻💿🏢/368
[Ecology] The Uninhabitable Earth, Life after Warming (David Wallace-Wells, 2019)📖🕮💻💿🏢/320
[Astronomy] The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake (Steven Novella, 2018)📖🕮💻💿🏢/512
[Health] How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence (Michael Pollan, 2018)📖🕮💻💿🏢/480
[Geology] Origins: How the Earth Shaped Human History (Lewis Dartnell, 2019)📖🕮💻💿🏢/320
[Geology] The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions (Peter Brannen, 2017)📖🕮💻💿🏢/322
[Ecology] The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature (David George Haskell, 2012)📖🕮💻💿🏢/268
[Ecology] The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors (David George Haskell, 2017)📖🕮💻💿🏢/304
[Biology] Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live (Rob Dunn, 2018)📖🕮💻💿🏢/323
[Genetics] The Gene: An Intimate History (Siddhartha Mukherjee, 2016)📖🕮💻💿🏢/608
Thus, over the weekend, assuming no more last-minute nominations, I will be create a poll with sixty-seven entries, asking my members to rank them on a five-point system and then use those star rankings and member attendance history to calculate the top 10–12 books and then generate our schedule through the summer of 2021—with the exception of December.
As for the December, 2020 meeting, nineteen books from my back catalog didn’t satisfy my ten year or repeat criterion, and so I added them to the three books carried over from last December’s poll. The first three books are the ones carried over, the rest are from my back catalog.
Measuring Eternity: The Search for the Beginning of Time (Martin Gorst, 2001)📖🕮💻🏢/352
How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed (Ray Kurzweil, 2012)📖🕮💻💿🏢/352
(Fiction) The Witness Paradox: A Time Traveler Anthology (Martin Wilsey, TR Dillon, Jeffrey C. Jacobs, 2018)📖🕮💻FALSE/246
iWoz: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Along the Way (Steve Wozniak, 2006)📖🕮💻💿🏢/313
Song for the Blue Ocean (Carl Safina, 1998)📖🕮💻💿FALSE/458
Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Carl Sagan, 1997)📖🕮💻💿🏢/244
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Carl Sagan, 2008)📖🕮💻💿🏢/457
So much reading, so little time! Can’t wait to hear what y’all want to read, my sapiosexual friends!
UPDATE 2020-04-10 21:30: I do encourage my Science Readers to retrieve all the information above, such the full title, all authors and their full names, what formats the books are in, a link to the library listing, the publication year and the page count, and post all this to the Meetup Message Board. I do this because I get an email notification every time someone posts there. It’s hard to get to, to be sure, but when I send the email reminding folks to nominate things, I do provide a direct link to the Message Board discussion.
It’s therefore sad that most of my members used the new Meetup Discussion list instead. I get no notifications of any kind when people post here so I was shocked to see, when I posted a link to this article, that in fact a lot of my members posted sketchy book information to that list. A few of the nominations were in the list, but fourteen were new, as far as I could tell.
Of course, not wanting to ignore my member’s wishes, I spent a few more hours today trying to add all their nominations to the list. There are now eighty nominations, thirteen more added.
[Medicine] The Body: A Guide for Occupants (Bill Bryson, 2019)📖🕮💻💿🏢/464
[Technology] The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect (Judea Pearl, Dana Mackenzie, 2018)📖🕮💻💿🏢/432
[Medicine] The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance (Nessa Carey, 2012)📖🕮💻💿🏢/352
[Evolution] Lamarck’s Revenge: How Epigenetics Is Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present (Peter Ward, 2018)🕮💻🏢/288
[Biology] Aliens: The World’s Leading Scientists on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life (Jim Al-Khalili, 2017)🕮💻💿FALSE/240
[Physics] The World According to Physics (Jim Al-Khalili, 2020)🕮💻💿FALSE/336
[Physics] Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics (Jim Al-Khalili, 2012)📖🕮💻💿🏢/239
[Technology] What the Future Looks Like: Scientists Predict the Next Great Discoveries―and Reveal How Today’s Breakthroughs Are Already Shaping Our World (Jim Al-Khalili, 2018)📖💻💿FALSE/240
[Technology] The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance (Jim Al-Khalili, 2011)📖🕮💻💿🏢/336
[Medicine] Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology (Jim Al-Khalili, 2015)📖🕮💻💿🏢/368
[Technology] An Optimist’s Tour of the Future: One Curious Man Sets Out to Answer What’s Next? (Mark Stevenson, 2011)📖🕮💻🏢/384
[Technology] We Do Things Differently: The Outsiders Rebooting Our World (Mark Stevenson, 2018)📖🕮💻FALSE/304
[Physics] Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality (Max Tegmark, 2014)📖🕮💻💿🏢/432
In addition to these thirteen, one more nomination was added to the December list because it’s a book we discussed in the group before.
The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos (Brian Greene, 2011)📖🕮💻💿🏢/384
From about 2020-03-23T14:30:00Z (10:30 am, Monday) to about 2020-03-23T23:30:00Z (7:30 pm, Monday), Google was redirecting all my email and either bouncing it or deleting it.
Let me repeat, google deleted or bounced my email for Nine Hours, as a part of the setup of my setup for a paid Google Apps account. The setup for these accounts are a bit weird. They require you to create a new google entity with your own company URL. Fortunately, I have multiple domains I own and maintain, including this one, TimeHorse.com.
I probably should have used my writing group domain, RestonWriters.org. After all, the whole reason I wanted to get a paid Google account is because Meetup was moving to Online-Only meetings, following the outbreak of SARS-COV-2, and I needed a tool that allowed for video conferencing.
Skype was a non-starter. For one thing, it’s great for person-to-person communications, but for group chats, it has this annoying habit of muting everyone except the current speaker and you have to wait until that speaker stops to get a word in edgewise. My understanding is WhatsApp has the same problem.
Meetup actually suggested using Google Hangouts or Zoom. I happen to like Zoom. I use it for my regular NPVIC Grassroots strategy meetings and for Toastmasters and it’s always worked great. Zoom does support up to a hundred participants, both free and Pro. The only problem is, each of those Zoom sessions are either limited to the free forty-minute block or are using an up-to-24-hour Zoom Pro Account. Since most of my Meetups are at least an hour, breaking meeting up into forty-minute chunks would be tedious. And, at $14.99 a month, the professional account is well out of my price range.
Just before the first week of Virtual meetings began, my writing colleagues and I, including Elizabeth Hayes, who runs The Hourlings, tested both free Zoom and Google Hangout. Despite being limited to ten people, we decided on Google Hangout and I mapped it to our official Virtual Meeting URL.
Ten people worked fine for Reston Writers and for the Saturday Morning Review. The Saturday Morning Review actually worked out quite well because Meetup, despite suggesting we move to a virtual platform, still won’t let you delete the venue from your event and mark it as virtual, which, when editing events can cause some confusion. But when the Library cancelled all our events, I just deleted them all from the Meetup Calendar, and recreated them with no Venue and just announced them as occurring in Cyberspace.
Stay with me folks, I’m getting to the email…
As Sunday approached, I new ten participants wouldn’t be enough. Google Hangout would be fine for Bewie Bevy of Brainy Books and Saturday Morning Review, and likely The Science Book Club, as they all usually have fewer than ten participants for each meeting. The Hourlings, on the other hand, often had twelve, and sometimes as many as sixteen!
I new Zoom was $14.99 a month, but I read that Google App accounts could up the number of participants to twenty-five. Unfortunately my 2TB Google Drive account didn’t qualify. I had to get a Google Apps account.
And that’s where my troubles began.
At first, I could only sign up for the $12 per month account, even though I’d read it could be had for $6. Since the setup has a fortnight trial period, I didn’t worry about the financial discrepancy. I set up the account with my business email address for TimeHorse, LLC. I associated it with with that email, it connected to my Gandi Registrar, and my account was ready to go. I created a Google Hangout and assigned it to the Virtual Meeting URL, hoping it would allow twenty-five. The plan was to use it with the Hourlings to verify that fact.
It failed! We still could only get ten people into the meetup despite it being a paid account.
Unfortunately, since Monday I’ve been on Weather and Safety Leave from work because my Telework agreement was revoked, but that’s a story for another day as this post is long as it is! However, it did allow me to speak to Google and they suggested I try Google Meet. Meet was included with all Google App paid accounts, and it would allow for up to a hundred people and could be as long as I needed. Also, I could downgrade to the $6 per month account and I would still be able to use it. I thus downgraded.
We tried it with Reston Writers Review and it worked wonderfully. We had up to twelve connections simultaneously! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
At around 10:30 am, that Monday, after chatting with Google, I was examining my Google Apps account more closely. It was telling me I had one last step I needed to complete: integrate me email with Gmail.
That’s when my troubles began. You see, what this innocuous, turn-key step says it does is it says it sets up GMail for your company. What it actually does is obliterate all the MX Records (email routing information) of your DNS (Internet routing information) Zone File (routing configuration file) on Gandi and replace it with MX Records that point to Google. The setup wizard doesn’t actually tell you this and I’m totally oblivious.
At current writing, I have 188 forwarded email addresses set up on Gandi with their MX Servers. One of those is my business email, the one Google took over and is my Google Apps login. That’s the email google set up as the official email address used in GMail. Once the GMail setup goes through and I send an email from the GMail interface to my personal email address on the timehorse.com domain.
It never arrives. All day long, I watch my email and, strangely, nothing arrives after 10:30 in the morning. I refresh and refresh, and it’s still nothing. Where have all my emails gone?
It’s not until I’m setting up for Reston Writers that I decide to contact Google about this. I’m crazy-busy setting up the Google Meet, opening up the pieces we’d be reviewing on my computer, and, simultaneously, chatting with Google, trying to figure out why I’m not receiving any email.
Eventually, Google Tech Support starts talking about MX Records and a chill runs down my spine. As you probably gathered by now, I am well versed in DNS records and Zone File manipulation. I even have a Python script which updates my DNS A Record when the IP Address for this server changes.
With trepidation, I logged into my Gandi account and saw the damage. Google had modified my Zone file and added a bunch of strange new MX Records pointing to Google. They had nuked all my Gandi Email forward since they’d redirected all email traffic to google. As google only had one account registered on the domain, timehorse.com, namely my business email address, every other email address I possessed was either being deleted or bounced by google!
Fortunately, Gandi’s Email Forwarding page provides a warning when the Zone file doesn’t point to their email server, listing the correct MX Record settings to use Gandi as the mail hosting server. I quickly commented out the Google MX Records and pasted in the Gandi MX Records around 7:30 pm, in the middle of my Reston Writers meeting.
Needless to say, I was miffed that I could not give my full attention to my writers during our weekly writing gettogether. But it’s good I finally did figure out the disastrous actions committed by Google after only nine hours, and not a day or more.
I may never know what was contained in those nine hours of lost emails. I suppose there is one blessing, though. I get too much email already and still have dozens of unread messages I’m desperately trying to catch up on. One Covidapolis, novel-length email after another from every business under the sun. STFU companies, you’re all doing the same thing and I don’t like reading the same message again, and again, and again! You have a plan, that’s all I need to know!
Maybe Google was doing me a favor?
In the end, I was able to solve the problem because I got skills and I’m available for hire!