Category Archives: Science Fiction

Something Familiar Here…

At the CAF SoCal hangar we have a gazillion pieces of a P-47 that we’re starting to restore.

Two of those pieces caught my eye today. To me they look surprisingly like a certain Gungan Senator from Naboo who’s universally despised…

Is that sort of like reverse anthropomorphism? Or xenopomorphism?

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Filed under CAF, Photography, Science Fiction

I Always Wanted To Visit Startfleet HQ

Who knew I’ve been there already?

Got sucked into an old “Voyager” episode tonight where they keep showing what supposed to be the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco.

It’s the Japanese Gardens at the water & sewage plant over behind Sepulveda Dam in Encino. I’ve spent many a lunch hour roaming around there back in my previous job.

I guess I was just there about 400 years too soon!

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Scalzi & Doctrow

If you have a favorite author and they’re doing a book tour, take the opportunity to go see them.

Tonight at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena we saw John Scalzi (center) with Cory Doctrow (right), hosted by Amber Benson (left).

The Long-Suffering Wife waiting to get her copy of Cory Doctrow’s new book, “Walkaway,” signed.

She got to spend a few minutes talking to him, while I waited to get my copy of Scalzi’s new “The Collapsing Empire” signed.

Go see your favorite author on tour. They rarely bite, are (mostly) housebroken, and it really, really does give them some good, positive feedback on their work after all of the hours, days, weeks, and months spent in isolation writing that favorite book that you just put away in two days.

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Filed under Photography, Science Fiction, Writing

Foolish April

Some years have great April Fool’s jokes, some not so great.

This year seemed a bit thin to me, but that could be a perception on my part since I was up early, busting my butt to take care of a deadline item, then spent over twelve hours at the hangar trying to get caught up after my “week off” to go to Consonance last weekend.

I guess it’s time to go check out the ThinkGeek page and see what they came up with. You know you’ve got a great fake gift item when people start demanding that it actually get made. There’s an example of a classic April Fool’s gag – the Tauntaun sleeping bag. 100% tasteless while being 100% hilarious, while also (once you step back and think about it) being something that could actually be made.

And I thought this year smelled bad on the outside!

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At Consonance 2017

Too busy listening to concerts & chatting with friends I see far too rarely to write much. But (of course) there are pictures!

For Interfilk Guest Leslie Hudson’s concert there was plenty of help.

The Guest of Honor concert was the main event tonight. From left to right are Leslie Hudson, Mary Crowell, Betsy Tinney (amazing cello!), and GOHs Bill & Brenda Sutton.
For those I haven’t indoctrinated into SF true fandom, when I’m done having fun I’ll explain those terms.

For now, it’s the open filk:

With luck, we’ll be up way, way too late doing this!

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Filed under Fandom, Music, Science Fiction, Travel

What I Really Need Is A Good AI Assistant

I’ve always been fascinated by human/machine interfaces. It might come from my days as a programmer, writing accounting, database, and office automation systems for small businesses. We’re talking 8″ double-sided double-density floppy disks days here, but it still taught me a lot about how people and computers interact, and how they should interact. The interfaces on GPS systems is a great example these days, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

Being a propeller beanie wearing, SF-reading, card carrying geek since before it was chic, I’ve seen my share of cool computer and AI concepts. While I would kill for a BrainPal from John Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” universe, what I really lust for are the sentient ship’s computers/pilots of Robert Heinlein’s “Time Enough For Love.” There’s a reason that I often refer to my computers as “Dora.”

But we don’t have that yet. IBM’s Watson is getting there, but still needs a building to hold all of the processors and hard disk arrays and a small army to keep feeding data into it. When they have that, or at least direct and constant access to that, via a neural link of some sort, I’ll be more than happy to be a guinea pig to test it.

I occasionally play with Siri on my phone or iPad. I’m often disappointed, although I do like some of the more clever Easter eggs buried in the software. But they’re just tricks. Occasionally I’ll ask a question and actually get the answer I’m looking for, but most of the time I’ll get, at best, a “here’s what I found on the web” answer. Which is sort of useless if I’m driving and can’t read it. Like, duh, that’s the reason I was asking Siri instead of using Google, right?

Google’s better simply because you can type out your question and keep honing the exact question to get the results you’re looking for. But it’s not a great mobile interface.

No, I’m going to wait for Dora. Or my BrainPal.

Do you remember what John Perry named his BrainPal?

Want to guess what I’ll name mine?

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Filed under Computers, Science Fiction

Joining The Circus

Some days you just need to fantasize about running away to join the circus in order to make it through the grind.

But now the circuses are closing down, so I may have missed my window of opportunity.

Next best thing – reading Heinlein’s “Starman Jones,” where Max runs away to be the astrogator on a starship. If my body missed it’s chance, my brain can still go.

And if I still want to join a circus when I’m done reading, I can always become a politician and run for office.

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Juicy Chunks O’ Wisdom For Thursday, July 14th

‘Cause I haven’t done one of these since last October, that’s why.

  • I used to do these about every six to eight weeks at the most. Now it’s been nine months. What the hell have I been doing for the last nine months? Hmmmm… I should know this one…
  • Back at the end of June I posted a Photoshopped picture and said there was someone in the original who was mentioned in a Tom Lehrer song, and I invited anyone to guess who it might be:
  • File Jun 30. 22 31 19 smallMy fannish/filkish friend Harold Groot got it correct over on Facebook.
  • Most days I try hard to be friendly, helpful, and cheerful. After a couple of long, miserable nights (leg cramps, again) my goal today was to be minimally offensive. I think it was a roaring success. Neither I nor anyone around me ended up in jail or the hospital!
  • S-IC_engines_and_Von_Braun_smallIt’s Wernher von Braun
  • With the raccoons going nuts every night on the flat roof above me in my computer room/office, I finally went and bought a better tool to take pictures of them. I got a Bushnell wildlife trail cam. It has an infrared flash and is triggered by motion, so you set it out and when something wanders into its field of view, it snaps a picture. I didn’t do anything fancy to mount it up there, just put it on a short tripod, then lashed the camera and tripod to the legs of a ladder propped up against the roof. It makes it easy for me to get up there and check it, and hard (I hope) for the curious raccoons to destroy it or tip it over. We’ll see.
  • The Long-Suffering Wife is doing well on her trike. She reports that the hardest part is getting it unlocked and locked back up again. I’ll admit, we might have overdone it on the bike lock. About four feet of coiled, braided steel about 3/4 inch thick. It doesn’t much want to get uncoiled and it’s like wrestling a pissed off octopus to get it around the tree and then through the bike frame and unlatched.
  • Speaking of the raccoons, when I posted pictures of them last week, the aforementioned Harold Groot did some research and told me over on Facebook that it was almost certainly a mother and three kits, not a male/female pair and two kits. He didn’t mention whether or not that made my imaginary dialogue less funny, more funny, or had no effect on the funny to begin with because you can’t improve or lessen that which did not exist to begin with.
  • Best Pokemon Go line of the day was a comment on a local television station’s story about how a gym or beacon or some sort of special place was in front of the house of a registered sex offender. Think of how this endangered the children! To which someone pointed out that there were no children playing the game – it was all twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings.
  • As I have been here working and writing this, I can hear the raccoons directly above me, right where the camera is. They keep coming back, and now I can hear them chirping and chittering (if you’ve never heard them, you should listen to the clip), even over the sound of the air conditioning and the music. (Toccata & Fugue in D Minor by good ol’ JS Bach, at the moment.)
  • Should you happen to need a bicycle shop in the west San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, we can highly recommend Spoke ‘N Wheel at Platt and Van Owen. When we bought The Long-Suffering Wife’s trike they were having a bad morning (a break-in overnight) but took great care of us anyway. Most impressive was when they politely pointed out, after The Long-Suffering Wife had picked out a particularly rakish and stylish helmet, that it was a $250 helmet and given the expected speeds and hazards involved on the trike, maybe a $45 helmet might work just fine. That’s some good customer service right there!

Remember, “The only secret to magic is that I’m willing to work harder on it than you think it’s worth.” From Penn Jillette, a freakishly brilliant human.

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Filed under Critters, Juicy Chunks, Ronnie, Science Fiction

All Together Now!

  It’s been years since the whole family has been together. 

Our son has been stationed overseas for years. Our daughters have been on various continents for months and years at a time, and while they’re back in California now, it’s a big state.

We’ll see them individually from time to time, and sometimes in pairs. Rarely all three. 2006 in St. Louis. 2011 (?) spring training in Phoenix.

This time it’s San Jose for Consonance, a small science fiction convention which centers around filk music. (I’ll explain later.)

For a day we’re together. With The Younger Daughter’s boyfriend, that’s a table for six.

(Thanks to Jim Robinson for taking our picture for me!)

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Postage Stamp Futures

While this may or may not be the last year for our mega Christmas light display, I expect the deluge of Christmas cards to continue no matter where we’re living.

One thing I always try to do is pick a nice US Postage stamp if one is available. There have been a couple years when we used the generic “wreath” or “tree” or “Merry Christmas” stamp. But it’s better if it’s a nice commemorative stamp, particularly if it’s one that I really like.

This year we didn’t have a super fantastic choice, but went with the “Peanuts” stamps, which were a pretty good second choice.

Next year, however.

In the last week of 2015 the US Post Office announced a number of their stamps to be issued in 2016. This one caught my attention, for obvious reasons.

File Jan 05, 22 16 27

Image: US Post Office

All eight planets, in enhanced color, which is sort of how they would look to the naked eye. Assuming you could see the surface of Venus, and not fry from the radiation surrounding Jupiter or Saturn, or fry from the heat and sunlight while near Mercury…

Nit picky details! These will be spectacular!!

But something’s missing, especially considering the biggest science story of 2015.

Back in 1991 the US Post Office put out a strip of nine stamps, one for each of the planets, all of which had pictures from flybys or orbiting spacecraft. Except Pluto. That stamp said:


Image: US Post Office

Well, that’s not true any more! But it’s not a planet any more? Maybe? Kinda? Sorta? But wow, what about New Horizons and the views we got last year?!

So the US Post office is also issuing this in 2016:

File Jan 05, 22 17 03

Image: US Post Office

Wow, two sets of stamps that I would love to use on our Christmas cards! They’re all “forever” stamps, so I can buy a bunch now and just horde them until Christmas 2016, then use the other batch for Christmas 2017. Right?!

Then I saw that these will also be issued in 2016:

File Jan 05, 22 24 18

Image: US Post Office

That should take care of the Christmas cards for 2018…

It looks like I’ll be investing in US postage stamp futures this year.

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Filed under Astronomy, Christmas Lights, Entertainment, Science Fiction, Space