In Sputnik’s Orbit

A few thoughts to tide you over…

 

Can We Really Touch Anything?

That depends on your definition of “touch.”

Obviously we can touch things. You are touching something right now that’s preventing you from falling to the center of Earth’s gravitational field. The thing is, “touching” may not mean what you think it does.

If you play pool, “touching” may conjure the firm crack of cue against ball, but if you’ve ever flown a kite, you know you can touch the air in a much squishier way.

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How to Avoid Teaching Your Kids to Hate Vegetables

I am reposting this here after it went viral on a website I contribute to. I cannot claim credit for this method; it stems from a parenting book by T. Berry Brazelton, but I can tell you it works–and what my parents did didn’t, though it veered at times into authoritarian abuse.

Here is what I did, from the time my children started on solid food:

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You Gotta Have Skills

Since I started seriously writing, I’ve learned there are a vast assortment of skills I might logically profit by that I just don’t have. And I’m not talking about grammar and spelling, or judging when to use active voice or how to write dialog that sounds true to life but isn’t as dull and repetitive as life—though those are all on the list.

No, I’m talking about the meta-skills, the things writers need to know these days that have nothing (or little) directly to do with writing, skills like using software to create promotional signage and book layouts, reading stories before an audience (or into a microphone for audiobooks), hawking your wares from a comic con booth or yes….begging for money.

That last might seem an odd choice for someone like me with major contest wins and a string of top market professional sales under my belt. But the sad truth is, short stories just don’t pay very much, and unless you hide all the other writers in a cupboard somewhere, it’s almost impossible to sell more than a few per year at professional rates.

So…as I work on the core skills (the prosy ones and the butt in chair, actually writing the novel ones) I started thinking a few years back, that it would be wise if I had a plan in place, should the need arise, to convince the IRS that yes, this writing thing really is a business that will one day turn a net profit after appearances and expenses.

My first step along those lines was to create Got Scifi Group, a small imprint and informal collaborative of some of my award-winning writer friends, for the purpose of producing anthologies that those of us who make appearances and don’t yet have a back list of novels can sell at a measurable profit.

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A Moment Which Will Live in Infamy

 

In this, the first week of May, 2020, many are arguing for the reopening of the US economy, often arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic just isn’t bad as the media makes out. Let’s look at that claim.

It is true that in 2020 thus far, with social distancing (such as it is), the US has seen “only” 75,000+ COVID-10 deaths compared to nearly 400,000 heart disease & cancer deaths in a typical year during the same period. But there is a vital difference that makes these numbers incomparable: we are not developing 200,000 new cases of cancer & heart disease every WEEK (as we are currently with COVID-19) and cancer and heart disease are not contagious and cannot double in number every few days as COVID-19 can.

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The Bounce Commeth

Today, Texas is living in denial. In a month, its people will be paying the price.

Back in March, when Harris County unexpectedly cancelled the Houston Livestock & Rodeo, residents were taking things seriously. SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 has a slow incubation time, but the numbers don’t lie when you plot them. Slowly, new confirmation rates started growing at a slowing rate as the virus burned through the supply of infected but not yet ill people. Then, by the first week of April, the growth of new cases flattened, then actually started to drop.

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How Much Radiation Leaks From Your Oven?

Very little, and it’s mostly in the form of light shining through the door.

“Radiation” just means anything projected through space. It includes potentially harmful neutron, gamma, and x-ray radiation, but it also includes sunlight, new ideas, and the petals of flowers.

The word “radiation” does not mean “magic death cooties,” and just because a device emits radiation doesn’t mean it can hurt you without falling off a counter and hitting your foot.

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COVID-19 is not the Flu.

A huge misconception about the SARS-Cov-2 Coronavirus is that it’s similar to seasonal fluenza. Well, both are respiratory infections (as are colds) but that’s where the similarities stop. And the more we learn about this new virus, the stranger it appears.

  • The Flu’s R0 number is 1.3 whereas COVID-19 is 2-2.5, meaning it’s about twice as contagious;
  • The incubation period for the flu is four days whereas COVID-19 is 14 days; meaning it can spread far and wide before it’s detected.
  • The average flu hospitalization rate is 2% whereas COVID-19 is 19%; meaning that even for the young and healthy, it’s more likely to be costly and leave lasting disability.
  • The flu’s case fatality rate is 0.1% whereas COVID-19 is 1-3.4%;
  • Currently, there is no COVID-19 vaccine whereas there is are effective vaccines for most flu virus strains;

There is, however, one way that SARS-Cov-2 is like the flu — an infected person is most infectious before they develop symptoms. This has been known about flu for decades, and why it hasn’t influenced public health advice much during the pandemic is hard to fathom.

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How To Quarantine At Home

My wife was in class at Harvard University when the sirens went off. An Air-Force brat like me, the grinding wail of the rotary klaxon still makes her hair stand on end—still conjures visions of Cold War airmen rushing off into the night to call forth nuclear Armageddon. Usually, that’s overreaction. Usually, it’s just somebody testing the tornado alarms. Not today.

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COVID-19 Overreaction?

Still think the US is overreacting and COVID-19 is “just a bad flu?” Read on…

The COVID-19 response team at Imperial College in London obtained what appears to be the first accurate dataset of infection and death rates from China, Korea, and Italy. They plugged those numbers into widely available epidemic modelling software and simulated what would happen if the United States did absolutely nothing — if we treated COVID-19 like the flu, went about business as usual, and let the virus take its course?

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