Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A reason to give thanks

It's a wonderful world
House guests and holiday prep ... I'll be back next week.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Beyond genre ... and big-box stores

One consequence of writing SF for a living is immersion in the genre: writing it; reading it (both for fun and, well, consider it competitive research), viewing it, attending SF conventions, and comparing notes with fellow authors. When I'm not involved with SF, most likely I'm deep into science -- and that's often research for fiction I'm writing or planning to write.

It's good for me to remember, from time to time, the 90-plus percent of the population whose days aren't spent immersed in science or the SF genre.

Beautiful outside ...
Last week I took part in Authors Forum, an annual event at the Handley Library (Winchester, Virginia), the lead facility of the local regional library system.

(This is, by the way, a drop-dead gorgeous building, designed in the Beaux Art style -- see photos at left. The library -- built with an endowment from Judge John Handley, an out-of-state patron/fan of the town -- this year celebrated its 100th anniversary. If you happen to know the Robert Preston / Shirley Jones (1962) version of The Music Man, the "Marion the Librarian" song-and-dance scene might have been (but wasn't) filmed in the Handley Library.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's *not* rocket science

The healthcare.gov start-up debacle -- about which I'll spare you my political thoughts -- has been of late (hah!) a major topic in the mass media.

Said fiasco has also provided fodder for late-night comedians and, not surprisingly, the Onion: "New, Improved Obamacare Program Released On 35 Floppy Disks." And fodder, too, for tech speculation, as in this from IEEE Spectrum: "The Obamacare Rollout: What Really Happened?"

Rather than become the zillionth-plus-first commenter on the botched roll-out, I decided instead to vent re the problems more generally encountered in software. My opinion is, I shall maintain, an informed one. I have an MS in computer engineering. I once programmed for a living. For many years after I stopped coding (other than, on occasion, recreationally) I managed software- and systems-development organizations, both in the private sector and under contract to several federal agencies (most notably, NASA). Several of those systems were Internet-based, very large, distributed -- or all three.

So what about the state of modern software bemuses (but not amuses) me?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cold and dark

Space is like that. Even in space, though, this is exceptional. See "Pac-Man GHOST nebula is literally the coolest thing in the universe – boffins: Warming up in the Big Bang's background radiation."

Should be called the Clyde Nebula
 And if you're wondering about that extreme cold, here's the explanation:

The rapid expansion ... is of gas from the dying star at the core of the nebula, and is the explanation for the Boomerang's frigidity. As the gas expands, it cools in a manner "similar in principle to the way refrigerators use expanding gas to produce cold temperatures," explains the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.