Now you can’t tear up your parking tickets

Sharon Ashwood
June 26, 2008  •  2 Comments

Apparently the Swedish have now developed a cellulose-fibre paper (dubbed “nanopaper”) that is nearly as strong as steel. It’s made from the usual wood pulp, but treated in such a way that the fine, long fibres retain their strength in processing.

http://technology.newscientist.com/article/dn14084-new-superpaper-is-stronger-than-cast-iron.html

Normal paper has a tensile strength less than 1 MPa. Mechanical testing shows this new stuff has a tensile strength of 214 megapascals, making it stronger than cast iron (130 MPa) and almost as strong as structural steel (250 MPa).

As a writer, I suppose I should think about my words being preserved forever on this amazing stuff.  However, my first thought on reading this was that we would see yet more stupid advertising for ultra-strong bathroom tissue. Cavorting fluffy kittens in Japanese Samurai Armor hacking at the rolls with their katanas. (soft AND strong!!)

What that says about me, I hesitate to ponder.


Is that a system error or are you just happy to see me?

Sharon Ashwood
June 19, 2008  •  No Comments

I’ve come across a new word:  transhumanism. Apparently there’s even a World Transhumanism Association. The goal is the ethical use of science and technology to increase human capabilities. An extreme example would be, say, the Bionic Woman.

Why is this on my mind?  There’s a book coming out in September by American author David M. Friedman called The Immortalists that delves into these Frankensteinian delights. He talks about the French surgeon, Alexis Carrel, who worked at the Rockefeller Institute in Manhattan and won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in transplantation techniques. Carrel worked with famed aviator and mechanical whiz, Charles Lindbergh, to develop a profusion pump to keep organs viable outside the human body. This was all good work and the foundation of further advances in cardiac medicine. Where it gets weird is when these folks started dreaming of an ideal future where those worthy of immortality (including them, of course) got mechanical body parts so that they could keep on ticking forever.

This isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Chuck and his airplanes, but consider the time period.  Eugenics was a hot topic in the early to mid-twentieth century, the same era that gave us the rise of the Nazis. Advances in technology, immortality, genetic selection, and the like made a new, improved human race look possible. Somebody was bound to take these concepts out of the realm of philosophy and try them out in the lab. Fortunately, some of the work, like Lindbergh’s, had medical value.

As far as the whole man/machine concept goes, I suppose we’ve got that already with pacemakers and the like. How far we’ll take it remains to be seen, but I’m not an advocate of living forever as a conglomeration of mechanical bits and pieces. The industry would want to computerize their fake limbs and organs, and then we’d get something like Vista. And, hey, I know how helpful help desks are. What would happen when my operating system argues with my anti-virus? I’d get a worm or spam or something and be worse off than I would with ordinary aches and pains. I could have a fatal error.

No thanks.  I’ll just get old, not obsolete.


The voices in your head – again

Sharon Ashwood
June 12, 2008  •  No Comments

Here’s an interesting article that ran on Monday in the Daily Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/earth/2008/06/09/scimind109.xml

The gist of it reads that scientists have been working with MRI scanning equipment to see if they can identify information about what subjects are thinking.  Minute changes in the brain can indicate what a person is looking at, whether they are lying, and some emotional responses. The results are suggestive.  A trip down this particular technological road, says the article, could result in someone eavesdropping on dreams or memory—even long distance.  Employers could screen for fibbers during a job interview. It goes on:

“Another possibility raised by studies of how the brain encodes memories and other information is that these methods could be used by intelligence agencies: a suspect’s brain could be interrogated against their will. “There are obvious military activities and the CIA and so on are known to be interested too.”

And it could be possible to reveal unconscious prejudices . . . raising the nightmarish possibility of interrogation for ‘thought crimes’.”

Of course this is all very yucky and scary, but I wonder about the optimism of evil geniuses who might want to go rooting around in my head. How many useless random thoughts are stored in my head? Will they finally be able to tell me what I did with my lost poetry notebook? How would they know what’s real and what’s just my fantasy life?  Yeah, okay, some of it would be pretty obvious, but I’m just saying …

You’d think the Men in Black would have enough to do with all jabber on the phone and wire taps and internet (hi, guys) without having to sift through the idiocies that DON’T actually make it past our internal editors!


Ravenous news

Sharon Ashwood
June 10, 2008  •  No Comments

 

My new web site is still not up, but I got a look at the first design draft this weekend.  Very nice! It’s striking and clean.  I can’t wait for it to be ready.

And …. RAVENOUS came back for edits.  I can tell what I’m doing for the next week or so.  Although there’s not a lot written there by my editor, I want to have a thorough read-through myself. By the time I galloped to the deadline and turned it in, I was exhausted. That’s never the optimum state for polishing. I’ve not looked at it for a couple of months, so I feel much more able to nit-pick with a fresh eye.

Seeing the manuscript reminded me of a bunch of stuff I meant to do in book 2 but neglected to work into the plot. Oops.  At least I remembered it early enough to fix that, or poor Holly would have to wait for the next go-round to solve this particular issue.

What else?  Lots of stuff to do with the business side of writing.  Packaging and promotion is such a monumental part of what authors do, it could be a full time job on its own. I need staff. Grabbing the odd holiday day isn’t enough, at least until I can teach the cats to stuff envelopes.  Sadly, the first thing Evil Kitty did when encountering a neatly tape-and-tyveked envelope was chew holes in it.  Not really the right instincts for good office admin, though perhaps he’d make a decent reviewer.

Good thing for him that he’s cute.


Unstructured blither time

Sharon Ashwood
June 4, 2008  •  No Comments

RAVENOUS, THE UNNAMED SEQUEL has a chapter.  I finished it in a hurry last night, so I hope the ending made sense. I’m eager to be off and running and not too much revising just yet. I want to get to the good stuff before I’m looking over my shoulder.

Feel the waves of mild panic. This book is due in November. I have a prickly feeling that’s closer than I suspect.  And, just like last time, there’s probably a finance exam scheduled around my due date–for a course I haven’t started yet. And two conferences over the summer/fall. And relatives coming to stay. I won’t be bored.

Good thing summer TV looks quite dreadful – there’ll be no temptation from that quarter. Oh, don’t get me started on reality TV.  I’m not sure whose reality that is.

Of course, before I go all superior and judgmental, I did rather enjoy the one with the vampire, the witch, and etc. but that’s an easy sell to a paranormal junkie.  What was that called again?  Mad House?


Alien rescue?

Sharon Ashwood
May 29, 2008  •  No Comments

This from the Curious Times, printed today in my local paper:

“[I]f you were wondering when the aliens are coming to save us, wonder no longer.  According to a book called The Coming Human Aliens, the Earth is going to be flushed down a massive black hole within the next four years and we will all be given the choice to go down with the ship or be rescued by representatives of 143,999 alien races.”

Does that mean I don’t get to see all the Harry Potter movies? On the other hand, I can stall on the new roof …


Power vamps

Sharon Ashwood
May 27, 2008  •  No Comments

I was trolling around on the internet looking for Fun Facts About Bloodsuckers and came across the term “vampire” applied to household appliances that utilize standby power. This seems to apply to anything with clocks, status lights or other “instant on” features.  These days, most appliances larger than a toaster have something that glows or flashes, so the power drain adds up.

I usually keep my stereo and computer hooked into power bars with surge protectors, so it would be easy enough to turn everything off with one button. Sounds good:  be green, save money. Vampires, since they live enough years to see the long-term effects of pollution, will undoubtedly approve.

The down side is that all the electronics guys I talk to say that putting something like a VCR through the “power up” process each and every time it’s used is very hard on the machine – not to mention the inconvenience of resetting all its features.

I think there is some truth to this. I killed (staked?) a VCR when I was unplugging it all the time due to cord-chewing kittens. One day it just wouldn’t find the stations any more. In a similar vein, the guy who installed my cable modem insisted it should not be unplugged or it would disrupt some internal cycle.

So what to do, besides demanding manufacturers make more earth friendly stuff? I’ve been trying to research a bit, but can’t find an easy solution. I want to do the right thing environmentally, but I am loathe to damage my toys. 

I am finding plenty of OTHER interesting environmental tidbits. This site has some good tips:

http://greenfactoids.blogspot.com/

 


A new place to play!

Sharon Ashwood
May 22, 2008  •  No Comments

Just a heads-up that my long-suffering term critique buddy A.J. Menden and I have a new joint venture here: http://community.livejournal.com/capes_coffins/

This is just an added extra to regular blog programming.  Come join us in our new sandbox for excerpts and more!


Writing rituals

Sharon Ashwood
May 20, 2008  •  No Comments

I spent the weekend decluttering and cleaning, and it felt wonderful. Yeah, I know. A sure sign of procrastination.

I could have been doing a lot of more creative things, like getting started on my next piece of writing, but I realized that the nesting phase was a necessary part of my pre-book activities. I needed to dust, straighten, tidy up my reference shelf, and put away the debris from my last project. I even filed away old receipts. Now all is cleared away and my laptop sits in readiness, free of the thicket of sticky notes usually adorning my desktop. There’s room for something new.

It led me to think about writing habits.  There are big writing rituals and little ones.  What are yours? The big clean/file purge? Picking out CDs? Gummy bears? Toys and mascots?


Who knew that about Ian Fleming?

Sharon Ashwood
May 16, 2008  •  No Comments

There’s never a shortage of weird and fascinating things out there if one takes the time to look.  For instance, I stumbled on this: http://www.newdawnmagazine.com/Article/The_British_Occult_Secret_Service.html

A lot of this was familiar to me from previous reading, and some of it was contradicted by other things I’ve read.  But there were a few nuggets here I’m looking forward to following up.

I’m not all that familiar with the occult connections to WWII.  The idea that Ian Fleming (author of James Bond) was a key player in the deception and capture of Rudolf Hess (an important member of Hitler’s High Command) is pretty interesting. The fact that he did it by leaking false astrological predictions is proof that truth is stranger than fiction. I’m definitely going to have to dig around and see what else I can find out!

 


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