NaNoWriMo 2014, Day Twenty-Four

The Enterprise is badly damaged, the Genesis Device is counting down, Kahn is quoting Shakespeare, the warp drive’s offline, we’re trying to escape at half-impulse, Checkov’s letting us know just how close we still are to the big BOOM! that’s coming, Sulu says, “We’re not going to make it, are we?”, and Kirk looks over at his long-lost bastard son, who just shakes his head woefully.

If my equivalent to Spock’s next move is out there in the real world of this NaNoWriMo project, now might be a good time for that particular plot twist to manifest itself. The needs of the many, and all of that.

While I normally put in a lot of  internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.

2014-11-24 Word Count Graphic

CHAPTER EIGHT (continued)

The spiders were being guided by images taken from Cronus as it orbited above every forty minutes. While they had been dropped into relatively “safe” locations, they needed to get to more “interesting” locations as soon as possible. They were looking for any sign of land.

It had been known for over one hundred years that Rhea primarily consisted of frozen water ice, with other volatiles mixed in for variety. But in addition to the ice, Rhea had a fair amount of solid materials. While the vast majority of the solids were buried at the center of the moon under hundreds of miles of ice, some of it was still on or near the surface.

“Any luck yet?” asked Alsby.

Miller threw two map images up onto the wall. “We’re getting there. We knew we were putting the probes down close to some mineral and solid deposits, but we only have so much precision from this high up in orbit.”

A knock on the door frame preceded the entrance of Carson and Phillips from engineering. They looked tired, but today they each had a smile.

“Captain, we’ve got some ideas on the station design that could let us kill multiple birds with one stone.”

“Let me see,” said Alsby.

“SaSEM, can you please open the station drawings I’ve been working on?” Phillips asked. A 3-D image appeared above the conference table in front of her, showing a cross sectional slice of Rhea’s surface. “The preliminary data we had for Probe Two showed the largest deposits under Tirawa, which would make sense. It’s one of the largest impact basins on the moon and it was almost certainly created by the impact of a large asteroid. Much of that stony or nickel-iron material would be buried there, but we don’t know how deep.”

“Do we have any good guesses? We’ll be lucky to be able to dig down even a couple of miles, so if it’s fifty or a hundred miles deep, we don’t have any chance of getting to it.”

“It can’t be that far down,” offered Carson, “simply because we can detect it as being differentiated from the background. It might be a mile or two down, but it might also be huge. It will be slowly working its way toward the core over time, but probably hasn’t had a chance to go too far.”

“What about the other probe?”

“Probe One has found several magnetic signatures that appear to be less than a mile deep,” Phillips said. “They’re scattered and much smaller than the Tirawa deposit, but they’re also much easier to access. When we figure out which of them is the biggest and shallowest, that will be where we should build the station.”

“You said something about two birds?”

“Right, we think that we have to try something radical here. All of the existing stations on the Moon, Mars, and Ceres are on or near the surface. They may be underground enough for some radiation shielding, but that’s trivial. We’ve been assuming that we would do the same here and have a mine of some sort to bring the ore up.”

“We want to turn that on its head,” said Carson. “Here we think we should build the station down where the ore is, even if it’s a mile or more down. It will make it much easier to mine and process the ore, while also giving us complete shielding from radiation.”

“You want to dig down over a mile and build there? Do we have that kind of capability?” Alsby asked.

“If it were rock, no way,” said Phillips. “But it’s 99% water ice, so all we need to do is melt our way down. That just means energy, but we’ve got multiple sources of that and we can pretty easily get it to where we need it.”

“But that’s the best part of all,” said Carson. “Instead of just vaporizing it and letting it bleed off into space, we think we have a system that will let us simply melt it, then pump it off to the surface.” He pointed to the diagram floating over the conference table. “We can use that like concrete to put into whatever forms we want to, which will make it much easier to start shipping back to Ceres, Mars, and Earth.”

“They’ve been working on that back at Ceres,” said Miller, not wanting to be left out of the conversation completely. “The high-G ship coming out with the station AI and other supplies will also be carrying dozens of small guidance boosters with autonomous navigation systems. They’ll tell us how big the solid ice shipments need to be, we’ll attach a booster, and it will use a slingshot maneuver around Saturn to speed up its trip. Catching it when it gets there will be their problem, but they seem to have a few good ideas on that already.”

“So we’ll tunnel down,” said Phillips, “sending water and volatiles up the shaft and ready to send back. When we get to the deposits, we’ll start hollowing out our station and start mining and processing the ore. I would kill to find some aluminum, but there’s sure to be plenty of nickel and iron, so we’ll work with what we have.”

“How stable and safe will a station be hollowed out of the ice that far down?” asked Alsby.

“It should be fine, there’s no tectonic activity that we’ve been able to detect so far in the ice. At these temperatures it’s like steel so long as we don’t heat it up too much. We’ll make the station wider and less compact than a normal surface station, since we’ve got all the space in the world to branch out. If we have small station sections scattered over a wide area with huge columns of ice left intact, there should be little chance of a collapse.”

“Alright, let me know when you’ve got your plans and blueprints a bit more firmed up, then make sure that you run them through CeresOps for a double check on the concept. This looks great. Anything else that you need?”

Carson and Phillips looked at each other for a second, before Phillips took the lead.

“There are a couple of things, one for this project and one personal.”

“Go ahead, Betty. What do you need for the project?”

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Take A Breath, Don’t Make Things Worse

Lots of shit going on in the world recently. Ebola. Global Warming. Ferguson. Congress. Rape Culture. GamerGate. Bigotry. Hatred.

Makes the head swim. Makes you frustrated. Makes you angry. Makes you wonder what to do, ’cause we’ve gotta do SOMETHING, don’t we?

I remembered something I was taught when I was learning to fly. I heard it echoed a couple of times last week at the Armstrong NASA Social.

In all of these cases, the category was “EMERGENCY!!!” Bad things were happening in the plane. Fire. Pieces falling off. Out of control. Ground getting bigger real fast.

In every instance, the first rule, of course, is, “Don’t panic.” It’s not just a buzzline from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. In a “situation”, you might be close to dying. If you panic, the odds of dying approach 1.00 very quickly. Your odds might not be great, but they can only get worse if you panic.

Which leads to the second rule – “Don’t make it worse.” Like the Hippocratic Oath for pilots, it reminds us that there’s no situation that can’t be made worse. Maybe you can make it better, maybe you can’t. Buy you can always make it worse. Don’t do that.

To assist in executing Rule One and Rule Two, Rule Three is to, “Take a deep breath or five.” This might be more of a suggestion than a rule, since there might be times when the fire is in the cockpit NOW, or the mountain in front of you as you come out of the clouds is RIGHT THERE. But those are the exceptions. Most crises build and grow, a chain of errors, poor decisions, and bad luck.

So when you realize you’re at the end of such a chain and it’s about to be a “bad day,” take a couple of deep breaths, don’t panic, and don’t make the situation worse.

The suggestion I’ve heard for the next step, when you’re evaluating the danger in your situation, is to see if you’re in mortal danger this second. For example, following an earthquake, if you’re trapped under rubble and you smell gas leaking, you’re in deep guano right this second. But for the vast majority of us, even if you got banged up a little, you’re probably safe this second. There could be fires to come, aftershocks, further damage, lack of food & water for days, looting… But this second, you’re okay. You can plan from there to make sure you’re still safe in a minute, an hour, a day, a week.

Viewing heaping piles of the idiotic, insane, and vitriolic shit that seems to sometimes fill the news and FaceBook and Twitter and the conversation around the water cooler, it’s natural and easy to get angry, to want to react, to want to strike out, to want to do something now to change things. The topic doesn’t matter. Ebola, global warming, Ferguson, Congress, rape culture, GamerGate, bigotry, or hatred.

I’m not saying that there’s nothing we can do about these things, and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take action to change these things. Quite the opposite.

But… Don’t panic. Don’t make it worse. Take a few deep breaths. See if you personally are in mortal danger at this second.

Then let’s figure out ways to make these things better. Hopefully we’ll make things better by working together, but we’ll do it one individual at a time if necessary. We’ll do it while remembering all of the really good things in the world that balance out some of the really terrible things. We’ll get there, but it’s a marathon, not a spring.

Don’t panic.

Don’t make it worse.

Take a few deep breaths.

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Filed under Moral Outrage, Paul, Politics

NaNoWriMo 2014, Day Twenty-Three

Down? Yes.

Out? No way.

Even if it turns out to only be 50 words today, it will be 50 more than I had yesterday.

While I normally put in a lot of  internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.

2014-11-23 Word Count Graphic


Rhea was an icy cue ball hanging below them, no longer a dot or far distant orb, but a world now. The surface not only was smooth in comparison to the rocky worlds of the solar system, but it was smooth compared to the other ice moons. Still, having kilometer deep craters and ridges in the frozen surface still meant a landscape unlike anything ever explored in person before.

Now in orbit around Rhea, Cronus had dropped two robot probes down to the surface. The first had gone onto the floor of the biggest crater on the moon, Tirawa, which had a tall, irregular central spire. The second had gone down onto one of the wide plains of ice, dotted with millions of small, shallow craters.

Both were having some problems learning to move around. With a surface gravity only 1/37th of Earth, it was as big of a decrease from the Moon’s gravity to Rhea’s as the Moon’s gravity was compared to Earth. With such low gravity and an extremely icy and slick surface, wheeled transport would have been extremely difficult.

Instead, something completely novel had been cooked up before Cronus had left Ceres. The probes designed for use on the icy moons were equipped with L-shaped appendages that could serve as either skis or snow shoes. On hard ice they would turn the ski surface downward, while on any puffy or powdery surface they could rotate their “feet” to have the showshoe side down.

That would let them move around, but didn’t give them a means of locomotion or a way to stay in one place if the terrain wanted to slide them somewhere else. Wanting to not re-invent the wheel, the mission engineers had found a way to let the probes anchor themselves and then move slowly and securely, just like it would be done by ice climbers on Earth.

Three arms on each lander were tipped with sharp pitons. Any one of the arms was enough to hold the probe on anything but the most extreme slopes, but with all three anchored the probes were solid as rock. The pitons could be heated slightly to facilitate their burial into the ice or their removal from it. When the average temperature at noon was −200 °C, it didn’t take much .

In order to move, the landers were equipped with three systems for deploying ropes and hooks, then reeling them in. The thin but strong lines could shoot an anchor up to 100 meters away, allowing the probe to slide itself along the line. To go across an area at an angle, a second or third anchor could be set. By reeling in lines and letting line out with others, it was hoped that the probes could move about fairly easily, if not quickly.

Nuclear powered and ruggedly built, the probes’ large central bodies, the way they were supported off the ground by a tripod of metal, steel-tipped legs, and the way they moved by shooting out lines and then scooting along them quickly earned them the name of “spiders.”

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Amanda Palmer In Los Angeles

The good news was that the show itself was AMAZING! (Many pictures below – good thing I brought the big lens and know how to use the manual settings on the Canon.)

You can look at some of the examples I give about why I think Amanda Palmer (AFP) is a most incredible individual. If you’re rolling your eyes and muttering, “He likes her?!” then it’s OK to just skip this and I’ll see you tomorrow. I understand that we all have different tastes and opinions and things particular artists or music or subjects that I get passionate about might be things you couldn’t care less about. No worries!

The bad news is that the venue (First Unitarian Church on 8th Street, near Wilshire & Vermont) apparently had some issues. (Looking at Twitter comments from others, this is an ongoing problem with this venue.) I don’t know what happened, but the show that was supposed to start at 7:30 didn’t start to nearly 8:30. We were expecting the doors to open about 7:00, they opened at about 7:45. (I don’t know exactly when they opened, we were standing in line a block away.)

The good news is that even after the late start, our event ran waaaaaay long. This was good news if you wanted lots of fascinating discussions, readings from her new book, favorite musical pieces (okay, so it was just three of them), and a surprise that just knocked our socks off. The show was supposed to run about 1:30, followed by everyone getting a couple of seconds each to meet Amanda and get their books and other items signed. It actually ran well over 2:30, pushing 3:00. That meant…

The bad news is that I didn’t get to meet her or get my (already signed for sale by the bookstore) copy of her book personalized. It was nearly 11:30 when they started setting up for the signings, and we were pretty much at the back end of a line of hundreds of people. My best guess was that it could easily be 1:00 AM or later before we got to the front of that line. While I have no doubt at all that Amanda stayed and signed until the last person was done, and I love her for that, The Long-Suffering Wife and I couldn’t stay that late. (For the record, her first tweet after the show was at 1:25, and it was “LOS ANGELES – my god. sorry we destroyed you with a three-hour show that was supposed to be two hours tops. but…life. and wow.”

The Long-Suffering Wife, while not a big fan, was a sport and came along, skipped dinner (traffic sucked) to get there “on time”, stood in the line on the sidewalk for nearly an hour, and sat through an event that was much longer than either of us had expected it to be. She appreciated Amanda’s personality and how authentic and dedicated she is — but she’s not a fan of the music. So, my thanks to her for soldiering on and coming along anyway.

IMG_9713 smallThis is one of the special guests, Jamy Ian Swiss. He was described as the book’s Doula (a sort of midwife), taking 120,000+ words written almost as a stream of consciousness exercise and helping to shape and trim it into a book.

IMG_9716 smallOur first view of Amanda.

IMG_9717 smallShe started with “In My Mind” on the ukulele, which was wonderful.

IMG_9719 smallI never lose my wallet…

IMG_9720 smallI’ll be a good defensive driver…

IMG_9721 smallPlanting tulips and vegetables…

Then we got two songs, off stage where the baby grand piano was. Another issue with the venue was the sound system, which was marginal at best. The staging was dark (as the photos show), so between the dark, the so-so sound, and the fact that she had disappeared down front off stage, all I heard of the second song was a lot of noise I couldn’t even recognize.

But then…

Then she had them turn off the lights completely, only the emergency “EXIT” lights illuminating the hall, and she did “The Bed Song” and ripped all of our hearts out. That’s something I’ll remember a long, long time.

IMG_9722 smallThen we’re getting readings from the new book.

IMG_9726 smallThen a discussion segment as Amanda got asked some very pointed questions.

IMG_9727 smallThe answers were not always simple. This was not “The Tonight Show” or “Letterman.”

IMG_9728 small

IMG_9729 smallThis was the special guest who was doing the interviewing. (Bob?) A well-known, long-time blogger who writes a great deal about the music industry? I know I saw it in an e-mail or blog or tweet from Amanda, but for the life of me I can’t find it tonight, despite my extremely awesome google-foo. But I wasn’t there to gather material for a report, I was there to experience the event.

IMG_9736 smallJamy came back out. It turns out he’s a magician, and a good one. We got one really good trick shown to us – after his mike died and Amanda had to pull hers off and put it on him.

Finally, a most amazing final piece before a brief Q&A session. (We were already running so long it wasn’t even funny.)

Amanda read a section of her book (pages 290-293 if you’ve got the book). I found it to be gut-wrenching, particularly in light of all of the shit that’s been going on with women in science and women in writing and publishing and women at conventions and women in gaming all being doxxed, threatened, harassed, and drowned in some of the vilest spew that the internet can deliver.

In short, at a really low time in her life, on her birthday, in Seattle with her husband, Neil Gaiman, Neil set up a massage. When she got there, before they started, the masseuse confessed that as a struggling musician herself, she had often written some of those horrible, vile, angry, disgusting, hateful rants aimed at Amanda.

And then that masseuse from Seattle, Courtney, came up on stage.

IMG_9740 smallIt sounded like Amanda hadn’t been brave enough to take this particular leap and read that passage at that show, but Courtney came down to LA to be at this show. Their discussion was emotional, shall we say.

Then Courtney, the struggling musician, sang for us, the most haunting version of the first two verses of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” that I have ever heard. Stunning, absolutely stunning.

Amanda promised to let us know online how to get more music and information from her. I’ll pass it along when I see it. You’ve to to hear her voice, really.

Then it was a quick Q&A and the mob moved toward the book signing area. We looked at our watches and bailed to get our car.

Twenty-two hours later and writing this has taken me right back there. With all of the feelings involved.

All I can add is this — if you ever get a chance to see Amanda Palmer live, take it, or you’ll regret it.

Wow. Can’t wait for the next time I get to see her.

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NaNoWriMo 2014, Day Twenty-Two

It’s now officially a rout. If this were a football game, it would be Reality 143, NaNoWriMo 17 going into the fourth quarter with no time outs left.

While I feel bad about this, it’s comforting to know that it’s happening in large part due to a bunch of really good things taking priority. Today I was at the CAF hanger all day (monthly staff meeting) and tonight we’re going to see Amanda Palmer in concert.

While I normally put in a lot of  internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.

2014-11-22 Word Count Graphic


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Going Out Tonight…

…to see THIS lady…


…listen to her talk, listen to her sing, and stand in line for a long time so that I can get my copy of the book personalized and share ten seconds with her.

Because of this TED Talk,

and this song,

and this (very, very NSFW video) song,

and this (very, very NSFW video) song,

and this (very, very NSFW video) song,

and this (mildly NSFW) song (sorry, it’s YouTube, you’ll probably have to watch at least the first part of a stupid commercial before the video),

and this Kickstarter project,

and this commitment to her priorities and ideals,

and the times her and her Twitter followers have made me cry,

and a thousand other things.


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NaNoWriMo 2014, Day Twenty-One

Priorities, priorities, priorities. Non NaNoWriMo priorities are just kicking this project’s ass this year.

The good news is that I got to go to that tremendous NASA Social for two days. The bad news is that the time spent for days beforehand doing my homework for that event so that I could ask intelligent questions, plus the event itself, plus writing about it after the event (2581 words today about Day Two, woo hoo!), all are sucking huge chunks of time out of my NaNoWriMo writing time.

The problem with the real world is all of that reality.

While I normally put in a lot of  internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.

2014-11-21 Word Count Graphic


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