In Sputnik’s Orbit

A few thoughts to tide you over…

 

On the Model of Parents

Idon’t often talk or write about my personal life, but a recent question of social media hit a nerve. The question was, “What if it turns out we’re all wrong about gay parenting, and it is indeed harmful to kids?

Now, why would this touch a nerve with me, a straight, white middle-class man with all the benefits of a mid-twentieth century American upbringing?

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Sale of For All Mankind!

Contract in hand, I can now announce that I’ve sold my most ambitious short work yet to Analog Science Fiction & Fact!

For All Mankind is the tale of two very different women, each hiding secrets from a hostile world.  When their respective nations must reach across the Iron Curtain to avert disaster, they find in space, something bigger than fear or prejudice.

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The OA: A Near Story Experience

Spoiler alert. If you haven’t yet watched Netflix’s series, The OA, to the end yet, go away and come back after you have. It’s okay. We’ll wait.

Image result for the OA

Okay.

The OA is the story of Prairie Johnson, adopted daughter of two small town Samaritans who has just turned up in the hospital and on YouTube after having been abducted seven years previous, just as she reached her maturity. As she tries to readjust to normality, she acts weird and assembles her own little quasi cult of followers who meet every night in a half-finished house to hear the spooky tale of her childhood, her abductor’s maniacal research into near death experiences, and the trans-dimentional Tai-Chi she brought back from the wichy woman at the bottom of the lake, the veracity of which is apparently demonstrated by the odd nocturnal nosebleed.

Got that? Doesn’t matter. No really,

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Make Your Website Shine!

Sprucing up your website for the new year? Now’s a good time to consider how it looks and works on mobile devices.

According to my stats for 2016, a quarter of my followers now arrive on mobile devices. I work hard for their patronage, and I want to ensure their experience is as pleasant as possible, but there are a huge variety of devices, resolutions, and user settings to contend with–and it all takes time away from writing. What to do?cellphone-use

Fortunately, the days of testing software out on every possible client configuration are long gone, and for the casual brochure site(1) developer, most of the heavy lifting has already been done. I use a paid Weebly account for my brochure site and a free WordPress site for my blog

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Goodbye Microsoft Sculpt

The Microsoft Sculpt is the worst keyboard I’ve ever used, and I’ve used a Magnavox Odyssey 2.

Image result for magnavox odyssey

I mean, the Odysey was useless, but at least it worked consistently badly at super low speed and was amenable to being hacked apart and reused for the science fair.
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How Fossils Happen

An archeological site in Denmark illustrates beautifully both how fossils form and why they are so rare.

Field archeologists from the Museum Lolland-Falster in Denmark have been investigating a stone-age coastal site exposed during excavation for a new tunnel. When this site was occupied over 5,000 years ago, sea levels were rising due to glacial melt. The site was a fjord on the island of Lolland in Denmark. It continued to flood with rising sea levels until construction of a flood control dyke in 1877 left it high and dry.

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How NASA saved money while saving your life.

Whoa! I DID NOT know this.

Back in the day, NASA operated a number of Apollo Program related simulators at Langley. One of them was this bad boy, the “Lunar Excursion Module Simulator (LEMS).” NASA gantry at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.LEMS was rigged up to bear 4/5ths of the weight of a test Lunar Lander to support lunar landing simulation. They even ran sims at night to help simulate lunar lighting. I knew this. In fact, I just sold a story that mentions this facility.

What I did not know…what I would not have suspected…is that this thing, which the Langley folks call “The NASA Gantry” it still in operation.

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The Power of Determination

Back in the day, I used to be quite an accomplished amateur photographer. I sold crafts to save up enough money to buy a good, cheap, Korean made 35mm SLR camera. I carried my gear in my daddy’s old military helmet bag and built a studio in what had been his  wood shop.Image result for ricoh KR-10

For a while, I entertained the idea that it might be my career, though I eventually realized my true talents lay elsewhere and let it go. But for several years, I had my own subscription to Popular Photography, and I’ll never forget one particular article that made a big impression, one that frequently come back to me today.

“An amateur,” said the article, “Will shoot one roll of film during a vacation, get only two or three good prints, and consider it a failure. A professional will shoot five rolls in one session,

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