Monday, May 13, 2019

Antisocial networking

NOT (you may be shocked to read) a tirade about Facebook or Twitter ....

I'm being sucked down a different rabbit hole. In this era, an authorial website is -- beyond de rigeur -- essential. And so, for a bit, in lieu of blogging, I'm diverting myself onto some (long) overdue maintenance of my authorial website.

https://edwardmlerner.com
My intergalactic portal ....
If you're after a peek at my view of things, your best bet for now might be to take a gander at that website: edwardmlerner.com.

And if you encounter that website being unavailable or contrary? Then you'll know I'm still doing battle with Wordpress ....

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Ugh.

From the WaPo ...

"The Census is vulnerable to digital attack. But Congress may be dropping the ball."

A key, horrifying snippet:

If vulnerabilities in census systems aren’t dealt with, there’s a risk that hackers could compromise Americans’ data — such as birth dates, marital status and telephone numbers — on a mass scale. And that data could be used to help file phony tax returns, apply for credit cards or for other nefarious purposes.

More troubling, if hackers manipulated information collected by the bureau, that could compromise all manner of government tasks, including drawing congressional districts and allocating federal grants.

As though the hack a few years back of the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM), compromising many years of security-clearance applications, shouldn't have been an object lesson.

And later in the same WaPo article:

Members of the House Appropriations panel, however, didn’t ask a single question about the cybersecurity weaknesses during the two-hour hearing ... 

That "didn't ask a single question" tell us that neither party's committee members inquired. This is bipartisan blindness/negligence.

O. M. G.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Really dark

Black holes, that is. It's long been inferred that a monster black hole lurked at the center of our galaxy. The evidence is now better than ever. See "Confirmed: a monster black hole at the heart of the Milky Way." A key quote:

New observations by the European Space Observatory (ESO) show clumps of gas swirling around at about 30% of the speed of light on a circular orbit just outside what astronomers conclude is the black hole’s event horizon. 

It’s the first time material has been seen orbiting close to the point of no return – and “a resounding confirmation of the massive black hole paradigm", according to study leader Reinhard Genzel, of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Germany.

And then there's this: "Has LIGO Seen Galaxy-Warped Gravitational Waves? Nobel laureate George Smoot claims LIGO has observed amplified signals of black hole mergers from the very distant universe, but LIGO scientists disagree."

(And just as an aside, LIGO has gotten really good. As in, "LIGO upgrade to allow ‘almost daily’ detection of gravitational waves." And that's germane to this post because short of black-hole and/or neutron-star-into-a-black-hole mergers, there aren't a lot of gravitational waves.)

Literally awesome
Of course the coolest black-hole-in-the-news story relates to imaging the super-massive black hole at the heart of the (relatively) nearby Messier 87 galaxy. Doubtless by now you've seen the nearby image many times. But have you read about the young computer scientist who (among many, of course) is chiefly responsible for this feat? See "Katie Bouman: The woman behind the first black hole image."

And now I must disappear into the metaphorical black hole of proofreading ...

Monday, April 15, 2019

Not a jug of wine and loaf of bread, to be sure, but still ...

Perhaps you've encountered my 2007 short story "A Stranger in Paradise," whether in its original (in the late, lamented Jim Baen's Universe) appearance, or reprinted in the Best of Jim Baen's Universe #2 anthology. Or maybe you've read that story's 2017, generations-after sequel, "Paradise Regained," winner of an annual Analog Readers Poll award

Art for "Paradise Regained" (by Eldar Zakirov)
If those two -- surely among my favorite short stories -- are not (with apologies to Omar Khayyam) "paradise enow," then I ask you to consider this late-breaking news:

Monday, April 8, 2019

Un-wordy (with, IMO, good cause)

Today finds me:
  • waiting for decisions on three story submissions.
  • on the lookout for paperwork on a story resale. 
  • expecting page proofs on the next (May) installment of an ongoing serial.
  • anticipating copy edits for the story collection in the publication process.
  • hoping to see draft cover art for the novel in the publication process.
Oh, and starting tomorrow, I'll have painters onsite for a few days.

I'm thinking it'll be a while till I start a new project. And that a bit of downtime is okay.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Starry-eyed

You guessed it: a post replete with astronomy news. (Wherein "news" is a relative term. My file of fascinating articles seems to expand faster than I can comment, and some of today's items first came to my attention toward the end of last year. Bear with me. These are all worth a read.)

Today's emphasis: how much remains to be understood about matters astronomical. And how much we continue to discover!

By Jove, that's hot!
Case in point: details of how how solar systems -- star(s), planets, and lesser bodies -- form. For example, it always seemed impossible that gas giants (i.e., planets like Jupiter) could originate close to a star -- but jovians *are* seen with close-in orbits. The inference drawn has been that such "hot Jupiters" formed farther out, and that the dynamics of interplanetary gravitational interactions on occasion caused planets to spiral inward. For all we know, that is sometimes the case -- but apparently not always. See "Giant planets around young star raise questions about how planets form."

And recent estimates of the number of potentially habitable exoplanets may be due for a downward revision. Determinations of which exoplanets orbit within habitable zones (basically, the range around their respective stars in which water will remain liquid) depend on estimates of the absolute brightness (energy output) of the parent stars. There are several ways to mis-estimate a star's absolute brightness, and if you get it wrong, your estimate of the habitable zone will be off. Planets you thought orbited in the Goldlilocks zone might instead be too hot or too cold. See "Number of Habitable Exoplanets Found by NASA's Kepler May Not Be So High After All."

Monday, March 25, 2019

Cyber pain

Not -- although the timing might have had you jump from my subject line to a mis-impression -- a comment on Russian Internet trolls, the 2016 election, ballot-infrastructure hacking, and/or the Mueller report. (I don't discuss anything remotely akin to  politics in this venue.) Different cyber pain ....


Not, IMO, a currency
Are you still mystically drawn to the faddish non-money "asset" that is cryptocurrency? Perhaps this will give you pause: "Crypto Mystery: Quadriga's Wallets Are Empty, Putting Fate Of $137 Million In Doubt." (Who's Quadriga? you ask. Until recently, Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchange. Not that I live in Canada, but if I did I'd rather trust my assets to the currency issued by the Canadian finance ministry.) A key article snippet:
The money was there — it was just locked away. At least that's what the QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange had been saying, before an auditor revealed it had finally accessed digital wallets set up by Quadriga's late CEO Gerald Cotten — and that instead of holding $137 million, the wallets were empty, drained in 2018.

Six "cold wallets" Quadriga used to securely store cryptocurrency offline were expected to hold millions. But they were emptied out in April, months before Cotten's death was reported, "bringing the balances down to nil," audit firm Ernst & Young says.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mega-peeve

I freely concede: my hearing isn't what it once was. That doesn't, IMO, explain what I'm about to gripe about. To wit:

At least the PICTURE improved
Dialogue on TV and in movies has become challenging to follow. With streaming, it's easy to watch (or re-watch) shows and movies even decades old -- and those, as well as shows and movies just a few years old, I hear without difficulty. (In all cases, I'm listening through a modern audio system, with 5.1 Dolby surround sound. Stereo soundtracks, of course, don't make full use of those 5.1 channels.)

Why has dialogue become difficult to parse in so many recent productions? Is it:
  • sound mixing that prioritizes special effects over dialogue clarity? 
  • directors who can't be bothered to require a clear speech channel?
  • some inherent flaw in the Dolby 5.1 technology (one that doesn't impact old-style, stereo soundtracks)?
  • actors who can't be bothered to enunciate?
  • directors who can't be bothered to require their actors to enunciate?
  • the trend to make all dialogue super-snappy fast (a cynic would say, to squeeze in more commercials)?
  • many -- or all -- of the above?

Assuredly, some of the above are at issue, because -- I repeat -- I can watch older shows and movies with none of the difficulty of the newest ones, using the same AV setup in all cases.

The next time I feel the urge to rant: TV and movie plots dependent on the audience reading in about a nanosecond (often tiny) text messages and caller IDs flashed across a character's phone.