In Sputnik’s Orbit

A few thoughts to tide you over…


Proof of Neil’s Giant Leap

Someone recently asked, “How can I convince my dad that Apollo 11 went to the moon?…He thinks later missions may have gone, but that Apollo 11 was faked just to meet Kennedy’s goal and beat the Reds”.

Simple. The Russians were watching. And listening.

The only way to convincingly fake a transmissions from the moon is to send transmissions from the moon. In addition to the high-capacity S-band transmitter in the CSM, the Apollo Command Module, Service Module, Lunar Module, and S-IVB upper stage each had their own independent omni-directional VHF transmitters which they used to communicate with each other and with ground stations and to support radio range finding.

Could the Soviets track these signals? You betcha.

  • A Kentucky HAM radio operator named Larry Baysinger (W4EJA) did just that. On July 20, 1969, he listened in on 35 minutes of VHF chatter between Mike Collins (in orbit) and Neil and Buzz (on the surface), including the president’s “phone call,” all of which arrived in his headset about five seconds before it reached the TV inside the house. Baysinger used a home-brew chicken-wire 8×12 foot corner horn antenna he had built earlier for radio astronomy. This was sensitive enough that his buddy had to continually adjust his aim or the moon’s orbit would carry the transmissions out of focus. The Soviets and other national governments of course had far larger and more accurate antennas, and would have had no trouble telling the CSM in orbit from the landing site, or in decoding the S-band transmissions.

  • Apollo 11 communications were independently recorded by the Bochum Observatory in West Germany using a 20 meter dish. The page, A Tribute to Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station, has a link to the Bochum recording (heard in the right stereo channel only, with the Goldstone voice added in the left).

  • A compilation of independent astronomical observations of the mission appeared in Sky and Telescope magazine, November 1969, pp. 358–359. These could not have been faked except by placing multiple alternate spacecraft in the announced positions at the announced times—which would rather defeat the purpose.
  • Apollo 11 was tracked by the Madrid Apollo Station in Fresnedillas, Spain. Most of the personnel were not with NASA, but Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacia. Were they all in on a conspiracy together? I think not.
  • The Lick Observatory in San Jose not only tracked Apollo 11 and let throngs of journalists and well wishers see the spacecraft through their telescopes, they were standing by to use the new laser retro-reflector as soon as it was deployed.
  • The Table Mountain Observatory in South Africa tracked Apollo 11 and published pictures in “Observations of Apollo 11”, Sky and Telescope, November 1969, pp. 358-359. Here is a 20 minute exposure from that article showing the spacecraft (as a streak) right where NASA said it should be:

  • The Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK tracked the mission in both optical and radio frequencies. Jodrell was tracking the Soviet Luna 15 probe at that time and knew when it had failed. They certainly would have known if Apollo 11 had not really landed.

All of which is to say, the moon landing could not have been faked. Not the first landing. Not the last. Not any of the in-between. Will hoax monkeys never learn? Yes Virginia, We Really Did Land On The Moon

Eavesdropping on Apollo 11

Otter Creek – South Harrison Observatory

Apollo 11 anniversary: Lick Observatory scientists recall landmark experiment 40 years ago

Bill Keel’s Space Bits

Comicpalooza 2016


This was a remarkable year. I got to hang out in the Wordfire “Tower of Nerd” and chat with Kevin J Anderson. I got to chat with Ken Liu about all the awards his won and how he’s won them (basically, being bad-ass smart) and my old friend Todd McCaffrey.  clsrr3nvaaqa2he

And I got to meet a bunch of cool NASA folk and sit in their Orion spacecraft rescue study test article.clxeeynuyaab24y

And there were cookies.

Did I learn anything? Well, maybe that I’ve grown a lot more in my writerly journey than in just my ability to get words down on the page. I was able to give meaningful advice to friends old and new, and that was cool.


How Groceries Won the Cold War

After President Reagan died, biographers could be heard giving him  and his Strategic Defense Initiative credit for bringing down the Soviet Union. But the truth is, it was a visit to an American grocery store that did it.

In September of 1989, shortly after Boris Yeltsin was elected to the Soviet parliament, he paid a visit to the Johnson Space Center as part of the lead up to what would become the International Space Station. Afterward, he and his entourage made an unscheduled visit to a nearby Randall’s grocery store. c9ecce7cc5726cbee36386989caf707d

According to Houston Chronicle reporter, Stefanie Asin, he “roamed the aisles nodding his head in amazement.” He told his fellow Russians that if their people could see this store “there would be a revolution.” He asked customers about their purchases and about prices. He talked to the store manager and marveled over the frozen pudding pops. “Even the Politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev,” he said.

Yeltsin was all smiles, but according to his biographer, he became despondent during the plane ride to his next destination. He couldn’t stop thinking about the plentiful food at the grocery store and what his countrymen had to subsist on in Russia.

Two years later, he left the Communist Party and began making reforms to turn the economic tide in Russia. The rest, as they say, is history. You can blame the Cold War or the Moon landing or bootleg Beatles LPs, but in his own autobiography, Yeltsin wrote:

“When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people. That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it.”

So there you go. The mighty Soviet Union survived Stalin and Hitler and the Cold War only to be brought to its knees by pudding pops. Something to keep in mind as our own nation’s wealth is condensed into the pockets of an ever smaller elite, who complain that somehow restoring the minimum wage to its time-adjusted value during our heyday will somehow cripple the country.


Happy Birthday Crawlers

As it gears up for the next leg of the manned exploration of space, NASA is celebrating the 50th work anniversary of its two mightiest and most stalwart servants, Crawler Transporter 1 and Crawler Transporter 2, each of which has already traveled around 2,000 miles, all over the coarse gravel trackways of the Cape.

These two marvels were manufactured by the Marion Shovel Company in Marion, Ohio, and entered service in 1966 by moving the Apollo 4 test vehicle out to the pad.

Each crawler is 131 feet long and 114 feet wide, and weighs 6 million pounds. Diesel generators drive 16 electric motors, and a complex jacking and leveling system that permits the versatile beasts to sidle up beneath whatever needs to be moved and latch on with four pickup points spaced 90 feet apart on the upper deck.

Here is one of the crawlers carrying Apollo 12 from the VAB, where it was assembled on its mobile launcher, to the pad:

Here is the unmanned Apollo 4 test flight, sitting over the flame deflector. Note that the crawler has scuttled off to safety:

Here is a Crawler carrying the Shuttle Mobil Launcher and a couple of SRBs as part of a vibration test:

Image result for crawler carrying shuttle vibration test

And here is Crawler Transport hauling the Space Shuttle mobile launcher:

Image result for crawler transporter 1 sps launcher test

Designed to carry the Saturn V and its mobile launcher, the crawlers are now being upgraded to carry up to 18 million pounds.

To my mind, these 50 year-old workhorses are highly flexible and versatile, and excellent examples of government work done right.

Meet The Winners! J.W. Alden!

Let me introduce you to my new writer friend, 2016 Writers of the Future winner, J.W. Alden.8x10

Stuart: Hi J.W.! Introduce yourself.

J.W.: Well, I’m a native Floridian who never got used to all that sun. I had my fair share of bike rides and backyard shenanigans, but for the most part I preferred to stay inside where the books and video games were. This probably fueled the overactive imagination that led to my eventual love of writing. Though if you had asked Little Kid Me what I’d be doing at 30, he’d probably guess by now I’d be the first professional wrestler chosen by NASA to become an astronaut. It turned out this was not a viable career path.

Stuart: Perhaps not, but it would make a smashing short story for Unidentified Funny Objects. So aside from an aversion to solar radiation, what got you into writing?

J.W.: My second grade teacher. I told her I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up and she asked me to write about it. I fell right into her trap.

About four years ago, I was driving a forklift in a warehouse. I worked the graveyard shift, then came home as the sun rose, and spent the morning writing. Then one night, as I was heading out the door, my wife stopped me and said, “When are you just going to be a writer?” I must have seemed perplexed, because she added, “Just quit your job. You don’t need it. You’re a writer.”

I realized both how incredibly lucky I was and how incredibly dumb I would be not to take her up on that offer.

Stuart: Indeed. When we were packing up to leave my year at WotF, we asked Tim Powers if he had any parting advice. “Yeah,” he said, “Marry into wealth.” How long have you been entering WotF?

J.W.: This was my second time entering the contest. The first time I entered, I was still a baby in the craft and received a well-deserved R. Being unaccustomed to rejection at the time, I became discouraged and didn’t enter again. After a few years of steady improvement and a handful of confidence-inspiring sales, I thought I ought to give it another shot. So, I vowed to buy all the anthologies, analyze the winning stories, and enter every quarter until I won or became ineligible. At the time, however, the current quarter’s deadline was coming up before I’d had a chance to enact this grand strategy. So I entered an older story to keep my promise of never missing a quarter. That story ended up taking 1st place, ruining all of my elaborate plans of engineering a winning story.

Stuart: Well it was an excellent strategy, and remains so. I still regularly read Hugo winners and such from current and ancient years for inspiration and tutleage. Star Trek or Star Wars?

J.W.: Oof. That’s a tough one.

On one hand, Jean Luc Picard was basically my TV-dad. Remember that scene in The Cable Guy where Jim Carrey laments, “I learned the facts of life from watching The Facts of Life! Oh, God!” Well, I developed my moral compass watching Captain Picard berate Wesley Crusher.

On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t be writing science fiction and fantasy today if not for Star Wars. In my favorite child photo, I’m holding a Return of the Jedi storybook at around five or six years old. Those movies instilled the first spark of wonder in me that made me fall in love with this genre. For this reason, if you held a lightsaber to my throat and made me choose, I’d have to go with Star Wars. Love them both, though.

Stuart: This is, of course, the correct answer. You have done well, young Padawan. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

J.W: I started out a pantser. Stephen King made it sound like the One True Way in On Writing. But as I grew in the craft over the years, it became clear that plotting works best for me.

For many writers, I know the first draft is the fun part, whereas revision is the part that feels like work. For me, it’s the opposite. When I’ve reached the revision stage, I feel I’ve done the heavy lifting. I lugged that big block of clay up onto my desk. Now I can mold it and shape it into something pretty. The blank page is far more intimidating. Outlining at the beginning of the process relieves a lot of the “WHAT NOW, WHAT NEXT” jitters the first draft used to bring. There’s no need to panic with my hand on the helm. The ship has a course.

I never feel handcuffed to my outlines, though. I allow room for discovery, especially when it comes to character. If I feel like the story wants to tug in a different direction, I let it.

Stuart: Man, you said a mouthful. Revision is awesome. It’s where you scrub the snot off your prose and let the miracles shine. I LOVE it! If you had a superpower, what would it be?

J.W: I wish I could stop time. I’ve always been a slow writer. Pausing the clock would solve so many problems. Not only would my productivity soar, but I’d never again feel guilty for spending too much time on the internet. Or playing video games. Or anything I want with no temporal consequences! I could have sickening amounts of fun all day and still pump stories out like there’s no tomorrow (because there would be no tomorrow until I commanded). I could be a literary machine. I could write ten novels a year. Come to think of it, this must be how Brandon Sanderson does it, right? He stops time? Yes, that must be it.

Stuart: Clearly. And boyish good looks. Tell us about your winning story

J.W: My story is called “The Sun Falls Apart.” It’s about a boy named Caleb who has never seen the sun. Boarded windows and a fortified door have kept the outside world a mystery his entire life. The only way out is passing the strange tests his parents conduct on him–tests that require Caleb to grasp at a power he doesn’t understand.

I wrote the earliest draft at Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2013. The pressure cooker environment of Odyssey forced me to produce a complete story on a tighter deadline than I’d ever experienced before (though the 24 hour challenge at the Writers of the Future workshop has since blown that out of the water), and I found myself turning toward this old story nugget that had been rattling around in my head for years.

After Odyssey, I came home burned out creatively, as is common for writers who go through intensive workshops. I needed time to digest all the knowledge swimming around in my skull before I could return to those stories. The draft that would become my 1st Place story languished in a cardboard box for a long time before I finally fished it out into the daylight. With the help of the feedback I’d gathered at Odyssey, I hammered that first draft into one of my favorite stories. I’m beyond delighted that it found its home with Writers of the Future.

Stuart: Nothing is more precious to the writer than unvarnished feedback. So what’s you’re favorite genre?

J.W: Another tough one!

Earlier, I mentioned Star Wars instilling my first love for SFF, and it’s true. But looking back, Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen is the book that made me love reading. It kickstarted a hunger for the written word that has never let up, and I think part of me will always associate that feeling with fantasy. I gobbled up all the science fiction I could get my hands on as well, and I still love both genres. But fantasy brings me a sense of freedom that I don’t always associate with science fiction. I feel like it gives my imagination a wider playground.

As such, my own work has leaned further toward the fantasy side of things as I’ve developed my writerly powers. The scifi stories I write tend to be on the softer side, often to the point of feeling like fantasy with science fictional trappings. I think it comes back to that sense of freedom. With science fiction, the author has a certain responsibility to the reader to keep accurate science at the heart of things, especially as you climb higher on the hardness scale. You have to play by the rules. Not that this isn’t true of fantasy as well, but with fantasy you get to decide what those rules are. With science fiction, I control the plot, the characters, their lives. With fantasy, this control extends even deeper, all the way to the very fabric of the universe they live in. I’m not just a storyteller; I’m a god. And it feels pretty good to be a god. Maybe not as good as a pro wrestling astronaut, but pretty damn good.

Stuart: Agreed. I started out with hard scifi. I still love it, but the more I write, the more I realize the story’s the thing. So now that you’re back from tinsletown, was the best part of the workshop?

J.W.: The big art unveil. It’s always awesome when you talk to a reader who really got your story, but it’s something else entirely when they take that understanding and make art of their own.

Stuart: Yeah, that still makes me smile. So what’s next?

J.W.: I want to keep the momentum going. I have a couple of stories in the oven awaiting revision, including the one I wrote at the workshop. Hopefully I can keep making sales and getting my name out there. I’m also looking to make the transition from short stories to novels this year. I’m excited (and a little terrified) at the prospect of traversing this unfamiliar length.

Stuart: Well I can’t wait, and remember, we’re family now.


Follow J.W. at, on Facebook or @AuthorAlden

That Our Flag Was Still There

I was recently asked about this pair of images, suggested by moon hoaximonkians that the whole Apollo program was one big load of bull, as real and Donald Trump’s hair:main-qimg-91095b3a66dea9ae83e04217569e73a3

The flags in these two shots are suspiciously similar…These side-by-side comparisons reveal the startling fact that BOTH flags are billowing positively towards the camera…blah blah, blah.”

Originally, I suspected these had been modified as is often the case with hoax monkeys, who either twist things to fit their narrative or simply don’t bother to go find decent quality source material open which to base their flights of fancy. After all, the image on the left was used in a well-known composite called “Flag and Earth,” created in 2003 by Ricardo Salamé Páez.

However, good quality scans are available at Apollo 11 Image Library. Neither is from the Data Acquisition Camera. Both are from magazine 40, loaded into the Hasselblad used for the first EVA. The image on the left is cropped from magazine shot 5905. The one on the left is cropped and blown up from shot 5885.

If the images appear similar, it’s because they are pictures of the same flag photographed from opposite vantage points. For analysis, NASA compiled this map of all features, equipment, and photos taken at the Apollo 11 landing site:

So the images are real, just carefully cropped and manipulated from low quality source and presented with a false claim that they are impossibly “billowing” in the wrong directions. How this is any sort of hoax claim is hard to imagine. After all, someone would have to go to a lot of trouble to MAKE this happen, it’s not like a flag would be very likely to “billow” identically in two different directions in two different shots on its own.

In fact, the flag is not billowing at all. It’s hanging motionless from a metal rod. The rod is too short for the flag so that the fabric can be gathered like a curtain, to sort of simulate waving, but w the moon, they found the end retained the curl from having spent months packed tightly inside a narrow plastic tube. There may also be static electricity at play, this being nylon in a perfectly dry environment.

But okay, it’s a silly claim, but let’s take a look.

First the right image. This is the highest resolution available for this image, blown up to match the size of the left image, and I defy anyone to definitively determine whether any of the folds are towards or away from the camera. The only thing clear in this fuzzy frame is that the flag is fairly opaque. It’s hard to tell from this frame, but we know from the log and from the other picture that the curl near the end of the strips is not a simple bend or roll but is bunched, so it makes sense that it will cast a similar shadow on both sides (it is is similar, but not identical).

Now the left image. Here it’s quite clear that this is not a flag billowing in the breeze but is creased and crumpled cloth. The “billow” indeed appears to project toward the camera on both sides–it isn’t a billow, it’s a gather or bunch.: The shadow is similar but not identical on each side, and what should be the upper left corner (the little flap protruding a third of the way from the bottom, clearly is on the side facing the camera. Going back, the same protrusion is clearly behind the flag in the right image.

And the more you compare the images, considering the stripes are pointing almost directly into the sun, you can see that we are looking at mirror faces of the same, non-moving flag. The fold in the lower stripes in the left image covers one star that remains visible in the right image. A fold at the bottom of the “billow” in the right image is covered in the left. Looking at the ripples where the stars attach to the the rod, the ripples occur in precisely the same spot in each frame, but the prominently lit star in the upper right of the left image is hidden in shadow in the right–the ripples are reversed as they should be.

So like everything put forth by the hoax monkeys, close analysis of good source material only counters the claim.

Forget the conspiracies. Get some intentional fiction free from C Stuart Hardwick

About This Moon Malarky

I try to be tolerant and understanding of other people’s positions, but moon-hoax conspiracultists really get my dander up. I mean….I mean…no, we’ll come back to that.
My recent post, Yes virginia we really did land on the moon has been very popular, and prompted someone on Quora to asked what are the best pieces of evidence that the moon landings were faked. Well, there are none. No, really. None at all. There are only assertions made by people who have absolutely. No. Clue:
  • No stars in pictures (camera stopped down for lunar surface )
  • Flags waving (held by wire)
  • Apollo 11 flag “billowing ” (it was curled from long storage)
  • No blast crater under the LEM (early engine cutoff was to prevent cratering)
  • Dust around the lander. Or something.
  • Non-parallel shadows. (The moon has terrain)
  • Seemingly identical backgrounds. (when kilometers away)
  • Lander unable to balance itself on a rocket. (Like Surveyor and Lunakod did? Like space-X did–YESTERDAY–with six times the gravity and cross winds?)
  • Lunar trainer impossible to fly. (It was not, except when it broke).
  • No flames from lunar launch. (small UDMH engine in a vacuum)
  • Herky-jerky movement of LEM (in low frame rate engineering camera films)
  • No RCS plumes (in same footage with shutter speed less than thruster duration)
  • Astronauts footage shot in slow-motion (demonstrably not so)
  • Why was every picture perfect? (Because NASA didn’t put the crappy ones in Life—but they are on the website)
  • Missing crosshairs in photos (because LIGHT)
  • The deadly radiation of space (is not deadly for a mere camping trip)


Every single assertion made by these hoaxicanians only demonstrates their own ignorance of physics, optics, basic science, basic math, how to keep a secret (tell only two people–then kill them), how rockets work, how air works, how inertia works, the effects of radiation on the human body, how static charge affects objects, the state of electronics in the 1960s, how TV works, gravity–and EVERY OTHER SINGLE THING

But that’s okay. If it will make the world a better place and my blog a busier nexus of nerd-dom, I’m prepared to refute every single claim by any hoaxicanian anywhere, no matter how daft or ditsy–if that’s what you all would like.

But first, what think ye of this quick and dirty stab? Does this do it in a nutshell? Want more? Have a few dozen more assertions to add to my list (I’ve heard some doozies)? Let me know. The more the merrier.

Why Are There No Stars On the Moon?

Moon hoax wackadoos have long complained that we couldn’t have gone to the moon because there are no stars in the pictures. It all had to have been shot on a sound stage. By idiots. Too stupid to think of the stars.

Right. Actually, prominent stars in the Apollo picture would have been suspicious. As anyone who’s ever played around with a camera at night can tell you, stars are only a little brighter than moon hoaxers. We went to the moon in the daytime. When you set a camera’s exposure to capture shiny spacecraft and smiling ‘nauts posing on a gleaming lunar surface, the stars kinda fade away. They ARE there, though, if you look for them.

This is frame 5905 from magazine 40 shot during Apollo 11. Stars are clearly visable at full res (
AS14-64-9197, from EVA2 on Apollo 14:
That’s Earth up in the sky, and Venus to the right of the antenna. Blow this image up and you can see a number of the brighter stars.
Here is 9207 from magazine 64, with a number of stars clearly in evidence even without full resolution:
And here is a color shot from magazine 67 showing a few dim stars, the brightest directly above the lunar ranging retroreflector:
The stars are right where they are supposed to be. The only mystery is, why a bunch of numnuts who don’t understand such a fundamental aspect of photography as exposure, presume to attempt photoanalysis in the first place.
By the way, these are all scans from prints, available at Apollo 14 Lunar Surface Journal


As always, skepticism is healthy, paranoid delusion, less so. Have your own favorite example of moon hoaxican tripping over their own brains? Leave a comment and share.

How Can I Improve My Writing?

Increasingly, I am asked by aspiring writers of various levels how they can improve their writing. This is a sufficiently common question, that warrants a sufficiently long answer, that I’ve decided to post the answer here for future reference.

How to improve your writing:

Join a critique group. No matter your skill level, the hardest thing for any writer to learn is to see through the eyes of readers. No writing book, course, or lecture can take the place of real live feedback from disinterested strangers looking at your work. Your local writers guild probably has a list of local groups in your area, or if you prefer, there are now many good online critique services. In addition, most good critique sites offer a host of forums and resources that can be invaluable to you.

I have tried and can recommend and, both of which have free options. Critters is also a reputable service, though I found it less conducive to building relationships with critiquers and other writers. I can’t personally recommend Wattpad or Amazon’s WriteOn, as they seem to me too focused on the superficial, and I fear they may be designed to feed the fantasy of the aspirant more than to instill the skills of the serious writer.

Do not reply to critiquers to explain, justify, defend, or argue. Just say thanks, move on and use or don’t use their feedback as you see fit. Learn to see the truth beneath the comment, even when the comment is wrong.

Read like a writer. Read a lot, especially award-winning work in and beyond your genre. Study these tales as instructional samples. Look at formatting and punctuation, especially dialogue and dialog attribution. Move on to pacing, tone, word choice.

Some writing gurus advise reading bad prose in order to learn by counterexample. That’s a terrible idea. Humans learn by imitation, and until you have found your voice, you will tend to sound like whatever author you just read, be it Tolstoy’s translator or Edward Bulwer-Lytton. You can, however, learn a great deal by studying the masters from an earlier age and cringing over their self-indulgences. Nathaniel Hawthorn, for example, had a knack for saying something wonderfully, then saying it again (wonderfully) and then again (also wonderfully). This isn’t the nineteenth century. We can’t get away with that anymore, but if we can just come up with one “wonderfully” at a time, we’re good.

Stop trying to impress. Beginning writers invariably overwrite. They fluff up their prose with fresh ten-gallon words and flowery description. They invert standard sentence order incessantly. They use metaphors that leave readers scratching their heads, and they use metaphors entirely too much. They try too hard to be philosophical, to pull at the heart, to be dark and obscure and literary. Knock it off. Relax. Tell a good story. Make it clear. The rest will come with practice.

Look for the “Telling Detail.” Beginners, lacking confidence, often bury their story under the weight of unnecessary and often repetitive detail. Learn to recognize the one or two key details—in a setting, character, conversation, etc.—that implies everything else the reader needs to know. Better to give one bit of description that implies character and mood, say, than to spell out all three in long winded prose.

Master the basics. Become an expert on grammar, usage, punctuation, manuscript formatting, and vocabulary. As a writer, you will often break the rules, but you can only do so confidently and cogently if you know what they are in the first place. And by the way, many of the rules you were likely taught in elementary school are simply wrong. Often, they were contrived to steer students away from common sources of confusion. Learn those sources and avoid them—and learn when to ignore those sorts of rules.

Here are some resources to help you:

Do not for a moment think you can rely on a grammar checker, or tools like Grammarly or Autocrit/Procrit. These can be helpful learning aids. They flag what they think are errors, and you research to decide whether they are right or not. Once you master the basics, you’ll find these tools are no longer almost ever right, and then you don’t need them any more.

Don’t accept shortcuts. The late Christopher Hitchens was fond of saying he reckoned “everyone has one book in him….and in the great majority of cases, that’s just where it should remain.” If you want to write as a hobby, that’s fine. It’s great therapy, a sort of thematic extended diary. No one wants to see that, but that’s okay. Meanwhile, there are frankly more aspiring writers than the world has need of. A great many spend an inordinate amount of time complaining that their chosen pariahs (agents, editors, purchasers, publishers, name-brand bookstores, the public, “gatekeepers,” etc. are conspiring to keep their voice from being heard. Well this is nonsense. All those “gatekeepers” make money by getting great works into the public’s hands. They want you to be great, but the cold reality is, if you aren’t, there are always others in the slush who may be. For many writers today, the greatest threat to eventual greatness is the impatient unwillingness to invest in their craft. Don’t be one of the whiners.You have little control of luck and taste, so focus on what you do control, attitude and industry.

Which leads me too…if you are really seriousgrind about writing…

Write a million critiqued words. No kidding. Ten long novels worth of your best effort, edited and polished, critiqued and revised, and most of it tossed in the forever file. That’s what it takes.

Dave Farland, first reader and lead judge for the Writers of the Future contest talks about “confident writing” as the ineffable divide between professional quality work and “not there yet.” I can’t explain what Dave means by “confident writing” any better than he can, but I understand it perfectly. Read sparkling pro-quality stories until you see it, and then you know what you’re shooting for.


What do you think? Have a good resource I should add? Want to suggest another tip? Leave a comment and let me know.


Wifi AC — Worth the Upgrade

Yesterday, I posted about my adventurous emergency wifi replacement. Today, the last puzzle piece fell in place.

You might recall that I write at a treadmill desk. You might even recall–if you’re a stalker of some sort–that I don’t use the wifi on the Dell Inspirion All-in-One computer mounted to the treadmill. The Qualcomm Atheros AR9485 wireless network adapter in this machine is universally reviled and, when packed inside the radio-noise infested confines of the All-In-One computer, it’s utter garbage.

Seriously, Dell. What were you thinking?

So, for the last couple of years since I set this puppy up, I’ve had it connected via Cat5 Ethernet cable to my old Linksys WRT-G wireless router, running an opensource firmware that lets me use it as a wireless repeater. That works well except that there is something wrong with the Linksys WRT-G, and not just with mine. Something causes it to drop connections and loose its DNS mind several times a week. This was why I replaces it as my wifi router to start with, and to my amazement, the firmware overhaul had no effect whatever on the problem. So..a week ago I got fed up with the frequent rebooting and ordered myself a new Amped REC15A Wireless AC range extender:amped

I choose this little dude for one simple reason: it has a cat5 connection. It’s also handy that it plugs right into the wall, so no shelf space is needed. The extender is simplicity itself. You plug it in, tell it how to connect to your network, and it broadcasts its own dual-band wireless ac networks that more distance devices can connect to. Nice, if you need that.

I turned the extended wireless off. All I want is the cat5 cable connection to my treadmill workstation. Done.


So here are the results on my new network:

Download speeds….
using the Dell’s crappy built-in wifi through the new Netgear 4X AC router: 0.15Mbps
using the Dell All-in-one through the WRT-G as a repeater: 5.8Mbps
using the Dell’s built-in wifi through the Amped extender wifi network: 5.8 Mbps
using Cat5 cable through the Amped as repeater: 28.8 Mbps average

And using my little chromebook running xubuntu over the Netgear’s AC wifi? Up to 56Mbps!

Apparently, Netgear routers work on sorcery. My cable connection is only 10Mbps.

So that’s sorted, then.






50 Years Since Apollo

​​Uplifting space adventure with a

foreword by Astronaut Stanley G. Love