In Sputnik’s Orbit

A few thoughts to tide you over…

 

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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The Post Human Delusion

Our intelligence is an emergent properly of an electromechanical system—our brain. If nature can produce an intelligent brain, we can produce an intelligent brain. There is no magic involved, and we already have a handle on much of what it invovled.

The only question is, what will that brain look like, what will it value, and how will it be motivated?

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A Radioative Wonderland

A recent social media interaction led me to a page of anti-nuclear alarmism making such wild claims as “Background radiation has increased 600 fold since 1950,”  and “Radioactive Carbon 14 From Nuclear Power Plants Causing Deforestation…Global Warming.”

Yeah….No.

For a start, the global average background radiation today is 2.3mSv, and no one really knows what it was in 1950, because by 1950 it had only been measured in a handful of places. It is certainly true that it’s higher, but it’s also true that we are all constantly exposed directly to about .3mSv just from traces of potassium 40 in our bones

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Why NASA Matters*

*Even to the most jaded, practical minded.

Asked recently on the Internet:

Why is the U.S spending so much money on NASA given that it is impractical and does not generate cash flow to sustain itself?

Because much of what NASA does isn’t immediately practical or capable of generating a self sustaining cash flow. Government has no business doing those things. Government should pay for things business can’t or won’t, like basic research.

NASA went to the moon because it was impossible, impractical, madness.

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My WorldCon Family Reunion

One of the best parts of winning the Writers of the Future contest was the resultant entrée into the family of fellow winners, judges and other participants in the contest. That word “family” is chosen with care. On the whole, we are not the most social lot, but our common experiences and interests draw us together much like the shared history and blood of a family. And like any family, our network of relationships grows richer and deeper with each passing year as more friends, contacts, and experiences are woven in to the fold.

Last summer, my first WorldCon, was a week of “Hey, I know you from Facebook,” and, “I love this place–everyone gets my jokes.” In February, I attended Kevin J Anderson’s Superstar Writing workshop, and joined a whole other—but overlapping—family. This year’s WordCon (MidAmericon II, in Kansas City MO) had very much the character of a family reunion.

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A Good Night

This week I was in Kansas City for Worldcon (MidAmericon II).
For a writer, the purpose of attending is less to learn or have fun than to attend what we call “bar-con,” meeting and greeting those we do business with or hope to do business with at the bars and parties after the official programming day is done.
So Friday, I get intel that there’s an Asimov’s party at the Science Fiction Writers of America suite, and I head up with some of my Writers of the Future siblings and a friend who works at NASA here in Houston (Hi Dom!), and what do we find?
cakes
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To the Cosmosphere, and Beyond!

I’m on my way to Kansas to hear everyone say “when I was little, this was nothing but corn fields as far as you could see,” everywhere I go. But first, a bunch of us authors are Treking from WorldCon in Kansas City to Hutchinson to see the Cosmosphere, what I gather may be the best North American space museum outside the Smithsonian. Anyway, I’m eager to see Hutchinson; I grew up in the same small town in South Dakota.ks_hutchinson02

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I’m In History’s Most Enduring Scifi Mag!

 

It’s here! It’s here!

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Analog Science Fiction and Fact is the oldest scifi magazine in the world, the one I used to visit B’Dalton’s Booksellers in the mall for as a kid.

Am I excited that my story, “Dreams of the Rocket Men,” appears on page 83? A tad. Am I proud to appear in a magazine that has published literally every great author I admired growing up?  The magazine my father-in-law knew as Astounding? The magazine that hit 1,000 issues and just kept going? The magazine that made John W. Campbell and Orson Scott Card famous? A smidge. Yeah.

I waited 8 months to hear back on my query, a year to see this cover, and now there’s just one thing left to do. Go write more stories.

Dreams of the Rocket Men is a Jim Baen Award finalist about a boy whose efforts to help a neighbor leads his life in new directions. Fellow Writers of the Future winner, Martin L. Shoemaker says of this story:

This story really reached me. It lives in the zone somewhere between Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, Hickam’s Rocket Boys, and Heinlein’s Requiem… I felt myself pulled through time as a story that could have been set back in the 50s or 60s slowly moved forward… The effect was like the world expanding, and also growing brighter and less sepia…

EDIT: Check it out! This story is building some buzz. The issue was still hitting mailboxes when SFRevu declared it “Hugo worthy,” “Classic science fiction,” “Beautifully told.”

Check it out on newsstands everywhere (and leave your in-the-wild photos in comments!) If you like it, hey, let the Sturgeon award people hear from you, or nominate it for an Analog reader award, why not? And don’t forget to share this post using the social media links below!

The Ergonomic Treadmill Desk

In March of 2013, I switched from an extremely fatiguing standing desk to a simple, effective, DIY treadmill desk. By August, I was so pleased with this arrangement that I invested in a substantial upgrade.

Since then, I’ve had my ups and downs. The treadmill desk was a boon. I soon learned to cope with static electricity and blisters and  to typing at a jaunt, and by the end of 2013, I was down to what I weighed on my wedding day. An injury forced me to lay off for a few months, but I eased back in and the beginning of this summer, I had run into a new problem.

My keyboard wasn’t cutting it.

If you follow any of my social media whatzits, you know I recently bought a Kinesis Advantage ergonomic keyboard.

Now, as Bryan Thomas Schmidt pointed out on Facebook, learning a new keyboard can really piss you off, but I went through some typing training and have found the Kinesis extremely compatible with continued touch typing on an ordinary QWERTY keyboard, and that it’s really those inferior layouts that annoy.

So the old execrable Microsoft keyboard went into hibernation, and the treadmill desk got a makeover:newdesk.jpg

This clean design replaces the slightly too-high, non-adjustable, hardware store wire shelf upper deck with a $30 Allsop Redmond adjustable notebook computer stand.bending.jpg

After playing with it for a few days, I found it a bit too tall at its lowest setting, so I just crushed the arms down a bit and voila.

Poplar veneer plywood, screwed to the stand, extends the new upper deck to accommodate a mouse beside the keyboard (I prefer the left). Black, non-slip shelf liner, securely attached with Scotch Poster Tape, gives both surfaces a neat appearance.

My Logitech T650 trackpad fits neatly and securely in the center of the Kinesis:DSCF5249And the mouse is easily swapped out for the Wacom tablet when it’s signature time:

wacom

And there you have it. It works great and I can type all I want, as fast as I want, without any hand pain, though I do need to make a little ramp to give the mouse a surface closer to horizontal.

I know the treadmill thing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I hope these posts give you ideas that you can use in your own workspace. If they do, leave a comment and let me know about it.

Cheers!

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