Thursday, January 18, 2018

What the %^&$#!! is wrong with Yahoo?

Yahoo services have been getting worse and worse. What is the worst? It's so hard to choose.
  • In email, spam delivery (to my spam folder, which is a small mitigation) has risen to >100/day. This makes checking for the occasional misdirected real email all but impossible. Why can't Yahoo throw out the OBVIOUS spam (like, ya know, anything sent a dozen times per day!) as it did before Verizon took over? As Gmail does?
  • In email, if I empty my spam or trash folder, Yahoo uses the screen space to start streaming a video ad.
  • Clicking a link in a Yahoo news summary or search page often sends me to a new page with only the opening snippet of the desired story -- and lots of ads. I then have to click another link to get the full story -- and more ads. 
  • Stoopid, unsolicited opinions pop up over many news stories selected from Yahoo summary and search pages as I (try to) read. If I want to see comments, I'll scroll to comments.
  • Calendar reminders that are supposed to send emails as events approach. Some events do. Some don't. All are set up exactly the same. 
  • And if I want to scan the Calendar page to spot any events that didn't send notifications? It often take two or three tries to get the Calendar page to open!
  • And then there is the absurdly slow load time of Yahoo pages. Are the servers hosted on someone's retired 486 box?
Doubtless, I've overlooked for the moment more quality Yahoo "features." 

Is Yahoo TRYING to drive away their remaining users? Years of filed emails and bunches of past customizations make it inconvenient to go cold turkey ... but I use Yahoo less and less often.

Crappy service like this is the way companies die.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I'm ENERGIZED! (Now you can be, too)

I'm delighted to report that my 2012 technothriller Energized is back in print and electrons. (Alone among my older titles, Energized was briefly unavailable in these formats.) It was and is available as an audio book.

Latest cover
Or perhaps I should call this my prescient 2012 technothriller. In the headlines: private space companies, renewable energy, the imminence of asteroid mining -- and, sadly, also nuclear proliferation, chaos across the Middle East, homegrown terrorism, and meddling by an assertive Russia. Energized incorporates all these elements.

Much of the action is set dramatically in Earth orbit: Aboard a zero-gee orbiting hotel/playground for the super-rich. On (and within) a threatening asteroid diverted to become Earth's newest moon. On a two-mile-square orbiting power station, beaming solar energy 24/7 to Earth.

(Have I recently mentioned my seven years as a NASA contractor?) 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

That's life?

For a change of pace here at SF and Nonsense, where physics, astronomy, and IT tend to dominate regular looks at the frontiers of science and tech, this post will consider biology.

We'll begin by "Introducing 'dark DNA' – the phenomenon that could change how we think about evolution." By analogy to dark matter, dark DNA denotes genes that conventional understanding insists must be present in a species's genome -- but aren't. Wild, wacky stuff.
And sticking for the moment at the cellular level, consider "Super-strong cell-size origami robots are coming: US physicists unveil game-changing biomorph nanobots."

These real-world nanobots are made in part from graphene: an allotrope of carbon atoms arranged into sheets one atom thick. Among possible applications of these nanobots is precisely delivering tiny doses of drugs. In my 2009 novel Small Miracles, the medical nanobots are made from single-wall carbon nanotubes: another allotrope of carbon, that is essentially a bit of graphene sealed into a roll. I love when life imitates art. Especially my art.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Starting off 2018 with the write stuff ...

Writing updates to begin the new year:

On the final day of 2017, I was happy to see "The Torchman's Tale," my debut short-story appearance in Galaxy's Edge, had received a three-star recommendation in the Tangent Online 2017 Recommended Reading List.

And I'm delighted to report that my secret-history novella "Harry and the Lewises" has been accepted by Analog. If the story title rings a bell, that's not by accident. But neither, I predict, is the significance what you think ...

Almost before you know it ...
Finally, I have a good-news/bad-news update regarding my forthcoming "science behind the fiction" book: Trope-ing the Light Fantastic ("From mighty oak trees, little acorns grow").

The good news? There's going to be, in addition to the initially planned ebook and trade-paperback editions, a hardback edition. Also: advance reading copies are in the hands of many review outlets. The less good news is a schedule shift. The original forecast was for late January publication -- but stuff happens. It now looks like hardback and ebook editions will be released in late March, with trade paperback to follow in late May.

All in all, there are far worse ways to begin another trip around the Sun :-)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Not your average holiday greeting

Okay, I admit it. Technically speaking, I shoulda posted this yesterday. Having said that ...

’Twas the eve of the Solstice, and no matter the hype
     Not a creature was stirring, not even on Skype;
The chat rooms were silent, the listservs were bare,
     No matter I hoped to find diversion there;

Intrigued? Appalled? Amused? One of them, I'll venture to guess. Then you'll wanna check out (at Sci Phi Journal) "A Visit to the Network Control Center."

The Futurama version?
Back so soon? Here's wishing you a happy holiday(s) of your tradition or choosing!

Meet you back here in 2018 :-)

Monday, December 18, 2017

2017 retrospective

Since Career Two began back in 2004, I've gotten to see a new Lerner book reach store shelves, physical and virtual, most every year. Some years, it's been more than one. (Still, 2010 -- which saw four books published -- was quite the fluke. I don't write that fast.) But 2017? Nada, although the new book that sold this year is expected to be out early next year.

It got me to wondering: where has the time gone? Despite life's many intrusions, both large and small, 2017 -- rather to my surprise -- has been productive. As in:
  • eight original short-fiction appearances, at every length from flash fiction to novella, in three
    Cover draft
    different magazines.
  • an original poem appearance in a fourth zine.
  • an anthology appearance. 
  • the aforementioned sale of a new book, aka Trope-ing the Light Fantastic ("From mighty oak trees, little acorns grow").
  • the resale of an out-of-print novel (also expected out early next year). 
  • >80K words added to Deja Doomed (working title of the novel in progress).
  • and of interest, one imagines, to visitors to SF and Nonsense: about fifty posts.
Last, but certainly not least -- and doubtless of consequence to some future writing endeavor -- was the trip to experience this year's total solar eclipse ("Look! Up in the sky! Dark awesomeness.")

Putting all that together, I think I'll cut myself some slack. Especially considering the kitchen remodel I also went through this year.

Let 2018 turn out to be as eclectic and productive :-)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A (non)post

Yeah, I'm overdue to post. Apart from a brief(?) rant, not gonna happen this week. Because of:
  • the wife's Windows 7 PC dying. (At least it died when sales are on.)
  • her new PC (which I picked and ordered, so I'm not blaming her), on which Windows 10 came out of the box looking nothing like Windows 10 on my PC.
  • the vendor hiding the Windows product key, and telling me I'd never need to know it. (Because nothing ever goes wrong with Windows? Or disk drives?) 
  • the absurd length of time Windows Update takes.
  • the fact PCs now ship without manuals, or even a link to where on the vendor's website to find a manual. 
  • the toner cartridge that arrived looking like it had been attacked by wolverines. 
  • the peripheral manufacturers who abandoned hardware support, rather than produce Windows 10 drivers for customers who own their products.
  • the Windows compatibility mode that wouldn't run Windows 7 drivers.
  • the disk-partitioning utility that screwed up permissions. 
  • the LAN software that ... well, that's so hosed, I'm still sorting things out.
  • the crappy excuses for keyboards PC manufacturers ship nowadays. Not everyone wants to use a tablet or touch screen!
  • the apps with opaque or nonexistent guidance on how to migrate libraries (images, audio files, and the like) to a new PC.
I could share more about my recent involuntary sysadmin experience, but I won't. You're welcome. Be back (hopefully) soon.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Shopped out yet? Then thank your lucky stars for *this*

Okay, not stars exactly, lucky or otherwise. But nonetheless astronomy news to take your mind off the post-Thanksgiving rat race ....

(Wait. What? You say you're not yet shopped out? Then see "Buy-a-Book Saturday redux." No need to be too literal here.)

Let's start with "An interstellar rock gets a name." The very first known interstellar interloper will henceforth be known -- never mind that it will soon have receded forever beyond our sight -- as Oumuamua. ("This is a Hawaiian name, meaning, roughly, 'very first scout.' ") Or, more formally, as 1I/2017 U1.

Oumuamua (an artists' conception)

We've even gained an inkling about the appearance of Oumuamua. See "ESO Observations Show First Interstellar Asteroid is Like Nothing Seen Before: VLT reveals dark, reddish and highly-elongated object." (ESO is the European Southern Observatory. VLT is ESO's Very Large Telescope.)

You've likely encountered reports that surface flows of water have been detected on Mars. Not so fast. Once geologists from the US Geological Survey reviewed the satellite observations, they reached a different conclusion: that "The case for flowing water on Mars is drying up." More specifically, the geologists interpreted:

... the “streaks” didn't behave like flowing water. For one thing, they existed only at the tops of very steep slopes. For another, the streaks all seemed to end when their slopes matched the dynamic  “angle of repose” — the steepest angle at which a given material can be piled without slumping.

If you've ever tried to build a sand castle, you're familiar with this concept. It's why dry sand -- which has a very shallow angle of repose -- tends to slide out of shape, but wet sand -- with a steeper angle of repose -- can be piled into towers and turrets.