Monday, October 29, 2012


It's not bad here...yet. But it's pretty miserable and although I have power now, I don't know what the situation will be for the next few days. So, don't be surprised if I don't post for a few days. And don't worry. I'm not in a physically dangerous situation. Just hunkering down and waiting for her to go away already.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Progress Report

First of all, my short story The London Incident should also now be available on Amazon in Japan. (It's also available through Smashwords and I do prefer people go there, but it's nice to have another country available through Amazon.

Earthbound Books just contacted me about the Dark Stars Anthology, which will include my flash fiction piece 'Raphael'. Did the few edits they asked for. No release date yet, though.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


You know, I am usually one for laws that protect people, but the one that basically forced my landlords to turn off the a/c ten days ago is rather annoying me right now.

It is, once more, almost too hot in my apartment to be able to work. Ah well. Getting stuff done anyway.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Back it up!

My primary business computer is an iMac I bought in February of 2011. A couple of weeks ago I noticed an occasional click-click-click from its innards. Uh oh. That be the sound of a failing hard drive, but I have to admit I went into a bit of denial. I have NEVER had a hard drive fail that quickly. Then, last Friday, I got an email from Apple.

Yup. My internal hard drive got recalled. And Apple handled it very well, even though it was technically the drive manufacturer who called for the recall. They actually sent a technician around so I wouldn't have to lug the system to the store (Believe me, a 27" iMac is not the lightest thing ever made).

So we switched out the drive. While we were at it, I cleaned my fans and motherboard (iMacs take forever to open because of the way they're designed).

Then? I inserted my USB drive into a USB port and did a full system restore from backups. Except for my local wiki, which rolled back a little, I could NOT tell I had switched out the drive at all after the system restore had run.

And this is why I am never running again without a proper backup system. I've always kept backups, but I've never used a properly designed backup system before.

Use one. I got drive got replaced before it failed. And I've never had a catastrophic hard drive failure. But too many people don't bother running backups until they do lose everything. (I also recommend keeping off site backups of your most important data - financials, your novel manuscript, your wedding photos, etc).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Demonizing Science

If you pay attention to science news, you'll know about this.

If you don't, then you should.

Back in 2009, three hundred people were killed by a significant earthquake in the Italian town of L'Aquila. Sadly, these things happen. Earthquakes can do a lot of damage. I'm lucky...I've never been in a bad one. The largest I experienced was the 5 point something that wrecked half the repointing on the Washington Monument. (And a good part of the repointing on the building I live in). Disturbing and annoying, but only property damage.

Three hundred deaths is a lot. That's a mass casualty incident by the standards of everywhere but certain overcrowded third world countries. When these things happen, people investigate and they try to work out how to fix it. And sometimes they look for people to blame.

Which is exactly what happened in Italy. Six scientists and a government official have been jailed for six years for failing to predict the earthquake. It was, perhaps, unfortunate timing - they had just said a major quake there was unlikely.

But here is the thing.

We can't predict earthquakes. Not yet. It's hard enough to predict the weather, on which we have far more data. The best we can do is point to places where they are more common and places where they are less common. (There is no place on the planet that is immune to earthquakes. Even if you don't live in an 'earthquake zone', you can still get an earthquake, although they tend to be smaller...but also shallower and affecting a larger area). The most warning anyone has ever gotten of a quake based off of science was a matter of a few minutes.

So. Now we have a government throwing scientists in jail for...well...I liked the comment of the Christian Science Monitor on the matter...'not having a functioning crystal ball'. And they aren't in jail for fraud or lying - no, they have manslaughter convictions on their record for the rest of their lives.

I cannot imagine anything more chilling for young people considering going into science than the threat of jail time if they get something wrong that almost nobody has ever gotten right.

I don't know what right of appeal these men have, but I do know that anyone who believes in science should be speaking out for them. Was the earthquake a tragedy? Yes. But it was not a tragedy that was anyone's fault and I thought we gave up putting our sins on a goat and chasing it out of town many, many years ago.

Monday, October 22, 2012

People on fire...

...are only funny in fiction.

Seriously, how do you screw up a sunscreen so badly that people *catch fire* after using it?

It's a Banana Boat continuous spray. I've never liked continuous sprays (and prefer not to use any kind of spray if I can avoid it, as a lot of them contain toxic chemicals and the like). I'll stick to lotion.

On the other hand, the captive white whale who has learned to mimic human speech is fascinating. Especially as he's probably giving himself laryngitis every time he tries it.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Stripped - art still in production. Sequential art is hard work and I have every respect for all artists and the time they put in.

The Skeptic - got the counter-signed contract.

Hoping to have some more news on a couple of other fronts soon. Been sick with this cold all week. Then yesterday my doctor talked me into getting the adult whooping cough vaccine. Yesterday morning. The injection site is still sore. Apparently this is normal - so take warning. (It beats getting whooping cough, of course).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Adding to the coolest inventions of 2012

Or at least to my personal list: The new flu vaccine.

Some smart person working for a pharmaceutical company came up with an intradermal flu vaccine.

The nice thing is that you can't see the needle coming. It honestly looks like a hypospray, although it does still prick a little bit. And for the first time EVER the arm I got the shot in isn't aching afterwards. (Some people do still report muscle aches). They do say there's a slightly higher risk of swelling or itching at the injection site.

The other really cool thing is that the new vaccine requires 40% less of the active ingredient than the normal shot. Which means you can make more of it...and given issues in the past with flu vaccine shortages.


It really is the closest thing to a hypospray yet.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I just love 3D printing.

Latest development? A 'filament' for 3D printers that prints off items that look, feel and even SMELL like they're made out of real wood. (It's made out of recycled wood and a polymer).

Another researcher is working on a system for forms. The idea is to be able to transport viruses from lab to lab without having to move them through the real world and also to disseminate vaccines more rapidly in the case of an epidemic. Of course, this could also do some real damage in the wrong hands.

Personally, still holding out hope that by the time I get old old they'll be able to print me off new organs when I need them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I've been thinking a bit about communication today.

We have all kinds of different 'modes' of communication these days. Writers have to be conversant with all of them.

For example, I calculate that, on average, I send 45% of spec subs by email and 50% through online web-based systems. I prefer the latter...they're generally more reliable. The remaining 5% go through regular mail. It was 10% or so not that long ago. (I do not submit to magazines that charge for electronic submissions, especially as most try to say it costs them $3, $3.50 or even $4 to process an e-sub).

Most post-contract communication tends to be via email, but I also communicate with publishers via Facebook. I also use Google Docs a fair bit for collaboration.

Phone calls are very, very rare, and I generally do not give out my cell number except to people I have a very strong relationship with, so I don't use texting for business...but I do use it a lot for personal communications.

Now. People go on about having their preferred means of communication. Some people, for example, don't want to send anything important via email because they don't trust it. I admit I've lost stuff before. a freelancer I need to be willing to communicate with clients and publishers by whatever means they prefer, even if it isn't something I'd normally do. (Heck, it's a big reason why I still use Facebook...because some people prefer to use it as a tool for communication). You have to be flexible, and being set in your ways can be an obstacle to getting, and keeping, work.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Stuff

First of all, I'm sick. I seem to have picked up a nasty little cold from somewhere. Here's hoping it leaves as rapidly as it arrived (Honestly, I was fine when I went to bed and then woke up with it two hours later).

This means I don't have much energy to write. I'm hoping to feel a little better and get at least some stuff done, though.

You know, I generally don't hate Mondays. But I do hate being sick. Sigh.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Progress Report

Blitzed submissions this week...will let you know if any of them pan out.

The art is progressing steadily for Stripped. It'll still be a while because we also have coloring and lettering to worry about. Comic books are a very complicated thing...almost as bad as movies. But it's going to be just plain awesome. QEW Publishing will be at Bellingham Comicon on October 20th.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The energy-food crisis

Ah, petroleum, our boon and our bane. Common wisdom has it that oil will run out fairly soon...there's a limited supply of it.

Because of this, people are turning to alternative fuels. There are two major alternative fuels: Ethanol and biodiesel.

Ethanol is made out of, generally, corn. Perfectly good corn. Corn that we could be eating or feeding to animals. And herein lies the problem. Encouraging biofuels is causing farmers to sell their corn to ethanol manufacturers for a higher price. That means food prices have to go up...and up. Not just corn prices, but meat prices too, because corn is used as a high energy food to fatten up cattle and pigs and is a major component in poultry feed. So, the use of ethanol means less corn and what there is costs more.

And all of our food prices go up.

When third world countries get on the ethanol bandwagon, then people start to go hungry. People start skipping meals to save money and then they start starving.

So. Ethanol, at least in any large quantities, is bad. What about biodiesel?

Biodiesel causes another problem...Brazil chopping down the rainforest to plant soy beans to make it. However, it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, for normal street cars (diesel is not suitable for race cars and very high end sports cars), as well as for trains, trucks and farm vehicles, biodiesel is the IT fuel. Why?

First of all, biodiesel can very easily be made out of cooking oil. Used cooking oil. McDonald's started the trend in 2003. McDonald's, as you can imagine, uses a lot of cooking oil. Enough to fuel all of their vehicles...and that's the eventual plan. Smaller restaurants now often sell their used cooking oil to biodiesel manufacturers. This means that the used cooking oil doesn't end up in landfill or the sewer system and, instead, is turned into clean burning, renewable fuel. (It's also possible to modify a diesel engine to use vegetable oil, although used oil still has to be cleaned...and the engine will still run on regular diesel or biodiesel).

On top of that, to make ethanol, you need a still. To make biodiesel? More and more people are 'homebrewing' their own biodiesel (some recipes require ethanol, but it's easier to make with methanol, which is generally made from natural gas...a fossil fuel, but one which can be made from waste and will likely, thus, be with us for a long time). Biodiesel can also be made out of animal fat, which can come from renderers (renderers process carcasses that are unfit for human consumption, generally horses and livestock that have died of natural causes or disease).

Finally, plants are experimenting with creating oils for biodiesel from algae, fungi and yeast. A 'bioreactor' contains, generally, fast growing algae in a plastic tube, through which water primed with nutrients is pumped.

So, perhaps, one possible answer to the food energy crisis is to make your next car a diesel. Or, better yet, a diesel-electric hybrid, many of which have shown up this year. Any diesel engine can run on up to 20% biodiesel without modification and many new vehicles can run on B100 from the factory.

So...ethanol bad. Biodiesel good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The world is changing

The world's first humaniform factory robot was announced last month.

Now we have more sophisticated agricultural robots.

How long will it be before most mundane, tedious jobs are done by robots? A lot of science fiction writers have touted this as a step to utopia. And I admit, I love robots. I adore robots. Robots explore our solar system. A robot is about to become the first human artifact to leave it.

But here's what people don't answer. What happens to the workers?

We have 8 percent unemployment, and official statistics tend to skew low. That also doesn't count the number of people who are under-employed...most of them struggling to survive on part time income with no benefits. These people then have to take second jobs, exacerbating unemployment further.

In this country, if you lose your job, you lose your access to affordable healthcare. Getting insurance as an individual is expensive. I and my husband were once quoted $2,000 a month because they decided he had a 'pre-existing condition'. (Something so minor that you'd laugh about it). At that point, obviously, it's much cheaper to self-insure. (Obamacare doesn't fix all of the's a hodgepodge of compromises few people like).

Unemployment benefits run out. People end up on the streets, and not that long ago we had people *taking* to the streets.

In our economy, you have to work to live. That's how capitalism works. And every alternative to it that has been tried is worse. Communism? Doesn't work. People hate it and then have to be fenced in. It's working somewhat in Cuba, because all the people who care enough about hating it to cause problems are now living in Miami. It's not working in China, and the only reason we haven't had more trouble there is because the government is smart enough to keep tweaking the system and perhaps a little because the Chinese brand of Communism incorporates a lot of the much older philosophy of Confucianism which is thoroughly imbedded in their culture. Even so, the current Chinese regime isn't really Communist any more.

Obviously, none of us want to go back to feudalism. Techno-feudalism is, in fact, a common dystopia...and the likely end result of libertarian-anarchist systems. (I'd love to get behind libertarian-anarchy, but I don't see it working).

So, what is there? What do we do when there is a labor surplus? Some of the apparent 'surplus' is a mis-match of skills...and that could be fixed, except that who wants to pay to send thousands of people back to school? We already have enough short-term pain.

I know I've written on this before, but I can't escape the question in my mind. What comes after capitalism? Assuming Marx is wrong and communism is not inevitable, which after the vast social experiment of the Eastern Block, seems highly likely to me...what does come next? Are we going to find out after a revolution, or can we plan for it now? I'm a futurist...and I'm stumped.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dragon In Flight

Turns out SpaceX's Dragon rocket...let's just say, if I was going to go into space, I'd be heartened by the fact that this rocket can lose an engine and still make it to orbit safely.

Follow this link for the video. SpaceX are saying the engine didn't actually 'explode', but there was an 'anomaly'. (In other words, they don't know exactly what happened until they finish analyzing all the data). However, all of the backup and safety features cut in just as they were designed to do.

This is the level of redundancy we need if we're going to start sending regular people into orbit, although I'm still convinced traditional rockets are not the way to do it.

So I'm going to give SpaceX a kudos. Engines fail all the time...that's why jets always have at least two of them. (These days, there are very few four engined planes, mostly because modern jets are much less likely to fail than twenty years ago, and perhaps the successors to the Dragon will have fewer than its current number of nine). You can't design on the assumption this will never happen - and they designed on the assumption that it would.

Keep it up.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Marketing Yourself

I've been thinking about this a fair bit lately. I can be blunt, I have very strong opinions, and sometimes I wonder if I should moderate them. I do want to be somebody people want to buy from, after all.

However, I think it is very important for authors to be genuine. I don't mean we should all act like the infamous Harlan Ellison, but mincing around and being 'politically correct' just makes you fade into the background (something I'd long to do - I'm shy - but know I can't get away with).

Be yourself. Talk about what matters to you. It's probably good to be careful about politics and religion...but not too careful. Remember that a political viewpoint will probably attract as many readers as it puts off. (And some people won't care what your politics are, anyway).

I think you need to be genuine, accessible (not saying you should put your entire life out there, but letting fans have some contact is a good idea) and polite, don't insult people even if they really ask for it. Everyone is a potential fan and a potential customer, even the people you think are being idiots. (And we all think people are idiots on occasion, and are thought of as idiots, that's just part of human nature.

Oh, and be confident. That's another thing I struggle with. But if you don't come over as thinking your work is any good, then how are readers going to think it's any good?

Friday, October 5, 2012


...nothing again. I know, I'm slipping. Starting a new project today that should be fun, but it's on spec, so I don't want to talk about it just yet.

(I get far too embarrassed to admit something got rejected).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: The Evolutionary Void

Finally got to the third book in this trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton.

Like most of Peter F. Hamilton's work, it's a fusion of cyberpunk with space opera - uploads and downloads mingle with spaceships and everything is on a galactic scale.

His world is well realized and his politics are still human...even when dealing with entities that only *used* to be human. I love his aliens.

Sadly, the book is deeply flawed. At risk of spoilers, there is a distinct lack of an important element of story: Character development.

His major characters end the book essentially the same as they began the trilogy. Things happen to them, but there's no internal sense of change or growth. (Or if they did change and grow, then that turns out to be...well, that WOULD be a spoiler). Everyone goes home to live happily ever after...with things from their past.

Really. It's a shame...I wanted to like this book. I really did want to like it, but I like my protagonists to learn from what happens. Oh, and I also like my villains to have redeeming qualities...this isn't a CCA approved comic book. The bad guys don't all have to be inhuman monsters.

It's still enjoyable and it IS nice to find space opera these days, but it's not what it could be.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Writing Tip

Stuck in the 'tell not show' rut? It's something I struggle with...especially when switching between scripts (where you are trying to be clear with stuff the end reader won't see) and prose.

Here's a good...but tough exercise: Draw your story.

Take plain paper, split it into panels, and just draw out a very short story...without using one single word. (Don't worry if you can't draw to save your life - stick figures are fine). By banning yourself from words, you engage the more pictorial side of your brain and are restricted to what an observer 'sees'. (Not that you can only write what is seen, but by focusing on what is seen and shown, you'll break the 'tell' rut).

Sketching can also help break through writer's block.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Some guy named Dean O'Malley was playing with a jet pack.

For four and a half hours...from Newport to Catalina Island. This is an unofficial new record for a jet pack flight in both time and distance.

Of course, this isn't exactly a superhero flight, for all that people keep using it as an example - the water propelled jet pack only works over water and has a ceiling of 30 ft...the length of the tube that pulls water up into the system. Still, it's a pretty cool toy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Drama and Politics.

Yes, a political post, sort of.

I'm saying this here as well as G+. I'm tired of the extreme partisan politics in this country and particularly tired of the way conservatives and liberals see each other as 'enemies'.

I've talked to a lot of conservatives. Most of them are perfectly sane, reasonable people. A few are complete nutjobs. Guess what? The same's true of liberals. The brand of nuttery is different, but the basic root of it is the same: An inability to tolerate the views and opinions of the 'other side'.

There are people who say liberals can't be intolerant by definition...but many are. They're intolerant of people who hold firm religious beliefs, in many cases, for example.

Now, it's true that 'liberal' views *should* leave the freedom to hold conservative ones. Allowing same sex marriage does not affect the ability of opposite sex people to marry. But many liberals would want to take away the freedom to oppose same sex marriage in one's own community, circle of friends and church. There are people out there who want to sue churches for discrimination.

I'm not a Christian, but I AM a religious person. I don't want my religious freedom taken away, and I refuse to touch anyone else's, even if I disagree with them.

So, I'm posing the question here as well: How do we bring the two sides together, how do we build a society in which there is freedom for everyone, not just those 'just like you'?

I'm serious here. I'm really tired of the intolerance and hate being spouted all over the place. Oh, and could we have some respect for the office of President. Please?