Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Out of here.

Leaving tomorrow for the Schroedinger II workshop at JQI. I won't be posting until Monday - I might sneak something in before I leave, but I don't want to have to worry about it, so putting this up now.

My website is up, but please do not leave comments right now as they might not save.

Monday, July 25, 2016

For DC People

Did some museum time over the weekend.

The Air & Space Museum has "A New Moon Rises" - it's temporary, but there's no formal closing date. It has some amazing pictures of the Moon taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Yes, you can see them online, but...) Capitol end of the museum, upper floor on the right.

The American History has "Fantastic Worlds" through February 26, 2017. It's an exhibit of the intersection of science and science fiction in the Victorian era that features very little from America - but it's worth checking out, especially if you're interested in steampunk.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Oops

Sometimes we're wrong in science.

Sometimes we're very wrong.

Scientists trying to sequence two species of lichen discovered they were genetically identical. Both the photosynthetic algae and its fungal symbiote were identical.

Snag?

One of them was toxic. The other wasn't. So, something else had to be going on - and the something turned out to be a second fungal symbiote specialized for defense.

Scientists are now trying to find out whether all lichens are, in fact, threesomes...or only some.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Changes Episode 50

If you weren't able to see this live, you can watch it here:


Also, my website and Making Fate will go down on Sunday for server upgrades (I'm with a small provider). It will be down for a few days - please be patient. I should be able to upgrade WordPress and my themes afterwards - and hopefully this will allow me to make the site properly mobile friendly. This will also fix the random unavailability issues that have been going on for the last couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

X Marks The...

...center of the galaxy?

Apparently, yes. There really is a giant X made out of stars at the center of the Milky Way. It probably has to do with how gravity propagates, but...we humans like our patterns.

(The treasure at the middle is, of course, unreachable - a supermassive black hole that acts as the anchor that holds the galaxy together).

http://www.popsci.com/how-two-astronomers-on-twitter-discovered-center-our-galaxy

Monday, July 18, 2016

NASA VR

NASA's latest cool virtual reality video - a simulated landing on Pluto.


Friday, July 15, 2016

An Open Letter To Hugo Nominees And Their Publishers

I'm not quite done with this year's Hugo packet yet, but I'm already seeing some of the stuff I saw last year.

The Hugo voting packet does matter. Even if your name is Neal Stephenson, it's not reasonable to assume every WorldCon member has read your work, or has read the specific work up for nomination. So, please:

1. Actually provide something. If I haven't read the work for nomination and you don't provide a sample, then voters have to go hunt you down. A lot of us are more likely to just give you a null vote.

2. Test your files. For the love of the Aesir, test your files. In this year's package I've found: One .pdf that would not register as existing on my Nook. One .pdf that crashed my Nook when I tried to open it. One .epub file that I could not open on any device using any software. One file, from a major publisher, that had repeated lines everywhere and a watermark that took up three pages on my Nook every time I hit it (every five pages) - it was almost unreadable. And one fancast where all the provided links on the pdf were broken. Please, test your files. There's no excuse for major publishers not to provide .epub and .mobi versions and not to test them on actual ereaders. In fact, anyone can make a usable .epub and .mobi using Calibre, which is free. You can at least test it on the Kindle and Nook apps on a computer, also free. And it doesn't take five minutes to test your links. Well unless there's a lot of them, which brings me to:

3. If you are being judged on your entire body of work for the year (editor, fancast, magazine, fan writer, etc) then provide what you think is the best. I am not...and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here...going to listen to 50 2 hour podcasts. I'm going to pick one at random. And I may pick your weakest episode. So, make sure people see your best work by narrowing it down to your favorites. Or the ones that got the best feedback from readers.

4. ...which brings me to: Don't provide a political rant as your sample. Or a religious one. Regardless of your beliefs. You will lose votes if your sample insults Democrats, Republicans, Christians, whoever - and some of those votes will be from people who agree with you but just don't think political rants are appropriate material to win major awards.

Mostly it's #2 that annoys me, though. Especially when publishers do it - it's not the writer's fault and really, Penguin can't test a sample on a Nook before sending it out completely broken. (Yes, I am going to name and shame - Penguin sending out a file that had every fl missing, repeated lines including lines interlaced with each other, and obnoxious watermarking is just...really...)

If you're nominated for a Hugo, do what it takes to win it - and that means providing clean, tested files, working links, and appropriate samples.