July 17, 2008 • No Comments
Last month, Fox news reported that the gurus in Silicon Valley are working on a number of projects around what they call renewable petroleum. The basis of this new industry is using genetically-altered bacteria to consume agriculture waste and transform it into crude oil. This seemed so much like a hoax, I hunted around for more sources and, sure enough, there are other reports about this sort of thing. It’s not a joke.
The good news is that this would turn a finite into a renewable resource, thus relieving considerable economic pressure. The bad news is that this doesn’t motivate the Powers That Be to get busy with non-carbon-producing forms of energy. Still, you have to hand it to these folks for coming up with an innovative idea. Oil-producing bacteria wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind when pondering the energy crisis.
Of course, these are tech guys. They don’t live in the real world. Anyone familiar with school children knows that germs are not containable. Ever.
These bugs eat organic material. The world is one big organic cookie jar. Well-fed bacteria reproduce. I hope these tech guys are familiar with your basic horror film, because the results of this equation look very black and slimy. I do not want to become part of an oil patch before my time.
Given the option, I would prefer a more showy apocalypse. Something drier, with gargoyles.
July 11, 2008 • No Comments
This one is interesting.
In a 2002 trial in Texas, a woman sued her church for physical injuries and psychological damage sustained when she was subjected to an exorcism at the age of 17.
A week ago, the Texas Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, threw out the jury award. The details of this decision are in the article.
If I understand this situation correctly, exorcists may rest assured that they can carry out their work unfettered by any consideration of human rights legislation, at least in Texas.
July 8, 2008 • No Comments
An interesting article on the healing properties of moonlight:
The author describes a gizmo called the Interstellar Light Collector located in the Sonoran desert outside of Tucson. Essentially, it uses mirrors to concentrate and direct moonlight. The machine has been used to offer alternative medical therapies, among other things, with positive anecdotal results.
Yes, my instinctive distrust of snake-oil salespersons kicked in when I read this, but on the other hand, why couldn’t there be something to it? After all, we know all about Seasonal Affective Disorder and how lack of full-spectrum light causes depression. Moonlight isn’t necessarily going to cure a patient—and yet it might do something.
So, in high enough concentrations, would moonlight act differently than sunlight, candlelight, or the average light bulb? As I recall from grade five science class, moonlight is actually reflected sunlight and, poetry aside, would probably act just like its larger cousin. Except …
That would leave the whacky effects of the full moon solely caused by its gravitational pull. Gravity may cause the tides, but can it wholly account for the increased traffic in emergency rooms, police stations, and psychiatric wards during a few nights of the month? Who knows. I’ve never seen a satisfactory explanation for what is a very real phenomenon, but I’ve seen the spike in nuttiness first-hand. It’s there. It’s not urban legend.
And then there’s that whole moon/fertility thing. I have long believed there is a deep connection between PMS and the legends of the loup-garoux.
Anyway, that’s all very informative, but now for the really important question: Does super-concentrated moonlight leave tanning lines?
July 3, 2008 • 1 Comment
The Demon Lord of Kitty Badness has discovered how to open cupboard doors. Which close with a bonk as soon as he lets them go. Repeatedly. At four a.m.
So I stumble into the kitchen to wring his fuzzy neck and discover he’s bowling with muffins. Glad to know my baking is so entertaining.
It was the perfect ending to day in which a) my iPod dumped all my music b) I spent six hours at the computer trying to convince a demon and a vampire to kiss (what, like they have a right to be fussy?) and c) the reference book I wanted turned out to be $358 used.
On the upside, it is only a 2.5 day work week. I could get used to that, if I could keep the whole paycheque ….
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.
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.
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.
June 12, 2008 • No Comments
Here’s an interesting article that ran on Monday in the Daily Telegraph:
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!
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.
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?
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 …