Monday, December 10, 2018

End-of-year(ish) writing update

It seems I'm overdue on reporting authorial news. And there's much to report ....

Remember these?
Let's begin with Analog. The November/December 2018 issue is currently running my guest editorial "Dystopic? Or Myopic?" As you may have guessed from that title, I'm no fan of the genre tendency these days toward dystopias.

The January/February 2019 issue of Analog will have my short(est ever) story "Clockwork Cataclysm." And in an issue TBD, look for "The Gates of Paradise," sequel to the last year's award-winning "Paradise Lost."

On to The Grantville Gazette (Universe Annex). Following up on last year's novelettes "The Company Man" and "The Company Dick," the November 2018 issue is currently running "The Company Mole (Part I)." Part II will run in the January 2019 issue. Suffice it to say, the plot has really thickened ....

Over at Galaxy's Edge, you can look forward to the short story "I've Got the World on a String" in the January 2019 issue.

Oh, and have I mentioned my cameo in The Washington Post? That's in the article "We crashed a science-fiction writers convention to ask about Trump’s 'Space Force' " (I believe my "could" got turned into a more definite "would," but otherwise the conversational snippet that's quoted is as I remember it. Could be I mumbled.)

I've saved the best for last ... a new collection coming in 2019 from Phoenix Pick. The new book has story selections that originally appeared in more than a half-dozen disparate venues. This will be -- mirabile dictu -- my nineteenth book (twentieth, if I count a chap book). The new book's working title is Muses and Musings.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cyber Monday? Good ...

Cyber currency? Not so much.

I consider cyber currencies, such as bitcoin, to be a solution for which there is no good problem. (We don't need new ways to launder money!) To draw an important distinction, blockchain -- the technology which underpins any cyber currency -- is seriously keen. Blockchain, I firmly believe, can be used in many productive and worthwhile ways (each such application, in one way or another, taking the form of a distributed ledger). Minting faux money isn't one of those socially beneficial uses ....

Fool's gold?
Has yet another bitcoin crash (see, from Bloomberg, "Bitcoin’s Crash Looks Like a Real Currency Crisis") given you pause? If not, ponder a key question raised in the article: In a virtual world without a central bank, who is the buyer of last resort?

Still unconvinced? Then consider -- this time, from The Washington Post -- that "The only currency worse than bitcoin is Venezuela’s." That, Dear Reader, is a record no one should aspire to break ...

"Mining" bitcoin (or any other blockchain-based currency) is -- again, IMO -- one of the more ridiculous possible uses of energy. And we're talking about a lot of energy. As discussed by The Balance in "How Much Power It Takes to Create a Bitcoin." By a conservative estimate:

... the bitcoin network runs at 342,934,450 watts—roughly 343 megawatts. Calculations based on EIA data reveal that the average U.S. household consumes about 1.2 kilowatts of power, meaning that 343 megawatts would be enough to power 285,833 U.S. homes.
All that said? I don't expect bitcoin (or ethereum, litecoin, ripple ...) to go completely away. After all, even after Tulip Mania you can still buy tulip bulbs :-)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Buy-a-Book (you know you want to) Saturday

Regularly since 2010, at about this time of year, I've posted about Buy-a-Book Saturday. That's my personal variation of Small Business Saturday: a day (specifically, the second day after Thanksgiving, and one day after retail's infamous Black Friday) on which holiday shoppers are especially encouraged to patronize small businesses. The big-box stores and Internet giants will do fine this holiday season. But will your neighborhood, non-chain shops and boutiques?

Rara avis! Is that a book store? Check it out.

Why do I promote the buy-a-book variant? Because what business is smaller than the author toiling away by him- or herself? Because, as I (and many others) post from time to time, the publishing business is becoming tougher and tougher -- especially for authors. Because more than likely you're a reader, else you wouldn't have stopped by this blog.

So: I'm here to suggest you give serious consideration to books -- whether print or electronic or audio -- for some of your holiday gifting. Friends, relatives, coworkers, your kids' teachers and coaches, the local library you support ... surely there's a book that's right for each of them. And at least one book for yourself, of course ;-)

Monday, November 12, 2018

2018 best reads

Thanksgiving comes as early this year as it possibly can -- which means Black Friday and Cyber Monday do, too. It's best I get this annual feature posted comparatively early.

I continue to read a lot: as research, to stay current with the genre in which I write, and simply for enjoyment. Before the holiday shopping onslaught, I wanted to volunteer a few words about the most notable books from my reading (and sometimes re-reading) so far this year. When I mention a book, you can be certain I really enjoyed it and/or found it very useful. Life's too short to gripe about anything I didn't find notable (much less the several books I elected not to finish).
Presuming that you visit SF and Nonsense because you appreciate my take on science or technology or fiction, you might find, in the post that follows, books you (and like-minded friends, relatives, etc.) will also enjoy. Unless otherwise indicated, the dates shown are for original publication. Each cover shown is an Amazon link, often to newer editions than the original publication (and to Kindle editions, where available).

What's made the cut so far this year? Read on ...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Physics cornucopia (physicopia?)

You know my eclectic file of intriguing news from the world of physics, into which I dip from time to time? Well, that file (metaphorically speaking, anyway) is bulging. Which gives us this week's topic.

You know all those tidy equations we learn in physics classes? They often deal with idealized situations, like friction-less planes. The real world tends to the chaotic.(*)
(*)  To physicists and mathematicians, "chaos" has a precise meaning: dynamic, generally nonlinear, systems that are extremely sensitive to initial conditions.

Or does it? See "Is nature really chaotic and fractal, or did we just imagine it?" A key quote:

The way we perceive reality is a function of how we slice and dice the physical world.

No matter how you slice it, the power of mathematics -- an invention of the human mind, surely --  to explain physical phenomena remains amazing. From the Department of Mathematically Examined Arcana, consider this: "History's most successful mathematical prediction." (Because, I'm pretty sure, regular readers here yearn to understand the origin of the precise magnetic field of a single electron.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

This isn't the time

I occasionally post here that I don't have the time, or choose not to spare the time, to blog, such as that I'm in the throes of writing.

This week I'm not posting for a quite different reason. SF and Nonsense is neither a political nor a cultural venue -- far from it. That won't change. But in contemplation of last week's horrific events in the US, topics that are germane to this blog seem just too superficial to post about.

Maybe next week ...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Some days, everything modern is maddening

Cryptocurrency mining isn't something I chose to undertake, but plenty of people do. If that's you, please note: "If you’re mining bitcoin from home, you’re now losing money." (In detail, the truth of that assertion depends on the rate you pay for electricity -- but subject to typical retail rates ....)

Do you use any Apple website? How about Amazon? Maybe you care about the integrity of (private) cloud servers used by the DoD. If any of those apply, you would have been justifiably alarmed by this recent Bloomberg headline: "The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies." Only Apple and Amazon deny the assertion vehemently, and other journalism shops find the claim unsubstantiated, impossible to confirm, and otherwise dubious. See (from the Washington Post), "Your move, Bloomberg."

(Is hardware with hidden trapdoors a threat? You bet your sweet bippie. This peril was the premise of a novel I started way back, circa 1990, and then shelved, when the Cold War -- however fleetingly -- went away.)

Get a lot of spam/scam calls on your cell? And the majority spoofed to look like your area code, and plausibly real? Me, too! And the trends are ever more ominous. See (again from the WaPo), "Nearly half of cellphone calls will be scams by 2019, report says."

Monday, October 15, 2018

I *do* exist (and other biological updates)

So, no post last week. A rush task took all my attention (details once the paperwork catches up to make matters official). But that job is done, and I'm back ...

With interests as eclectic as ever. Today: news of topics biological.

The core concept in modern biology is (and long has been) evolution -- and yet there are those who remain skeptical of evolution. Here (not that I expect it to make any difference) is one more demonstration: "Ultra-violet experiment confirms 'Darwin’s moths' "

The (in)famous double helix
Genetics is a messy thing. It's far more complex than was understood when DNA's role was first ascertained, or even after the first genomes were decoded. Witness this analysis of the surprising intelligence of octopi (fair warning: it's a long-ish article): "How the octopus got its smarts."
Did the octopus evolve its unique intelligence by playing fast and free with the genetic code
And turning to truly scary things ...