Feb 28, 2011 Science
And we wonder how it is that our schools are falling behind in science?
Feb 26, 2011 Other Writers
Tobias Buckell does an outstanding job answering a question on the Adventures of Sci-fi Publishing podcast. This is noteworthy for me because it made me remember how dangerous it is to jump to conclusions or go with your gut instinct. Beyond that, it helped make me think about the fun part of reading, and how authors can help this along.
In this case, the question is about how one goes about making reasonable equations or relationships between things when writing from an alien point of view. In other words, if you say “the boulder was the size of a truck” we all understand that. But an alien being may well not know what a truck is, so the alien rally can’t say that. So what’s a writer to do?
My gut instinct as I heard the question (while treading along on my treadmill) was to dismiss it out of hand. I mean, you just feel things out, you know? You put yourself in the point of view of the alien and you do your best, right? It’s a feel thing. An experience thing. In other words … what a damned silly question.
But it’s not a silly question at all. It’s a great question, and Toby gave an outstanding response that made me think both about my personal writing and about what it means about me that I jumped to such an unhealthy first response.
Hopefully it was just that I was getting tired. [grin].
It’s pretty deep in the podcast, and I don’t have a minute-point to note. But the whole thing is worth listening to.
I’m excited to report that Analog has published my novelette “Ellipses…” in their May issue. Yes, I know it’s only February. Such is the strangeness of their publishing cycle. It’s a fun story for me to see make print. Hope you chase down a copy.
If you do, feel free to let me know what you think.
Feb 20, 2011 Uncategorized
Here’s a story to make you think.
Lisa joined a health challenge at work, and had a 4:00 meeting at the health club. This meant that I went with her and did a second workout. I’m … ah … feeling it. In a good way. Yeah. Right. A good way. Uh-huh.
I’m sure it will feel better tomorrow.
Since it’s in the title, I should probably lead with it … so here it is: Britney Spears does SF?
Since I’m in the media frame of mind, I’m currently reading a pair of books–Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars, and a “Best of” collection of Edmund Hamilton’s work.
King’s work is great, of course. He’s really a no bullshit storyteller of the best cut. Hamilton’s collection is interesting in the historical sense, and from the point of view that you can really see him maturing over time. Perhaps you can say that about the field, too. The collection spans stories over some four decades.
With the field literally exploding with uncertainty over almost every aspect of the future, I think it’s valuable to look backward, too.
So, in theme of looking backward, I’m apparently in a bit of a retro mood this AM (and last). I’ve had Sarah McLachlan on the iTunes as I write. Can I call Sarah McLachlan retro? I guess I can, eh? Retro is what I point to when I say “retro!”
Regardless, the story I’m working on is flowing pretty well, still. Main characters introduced, conflict kinda set up and ready to get deeper. Fun being had.
But now it’s off to work. Have a great day!
Feb 17, 2011 Daily Writing
So, here I am: story line is flowing, but time for real work arrives.
Of course, I’m stuffed with ideas right now. I was taking a walk at lunchtime yesterday and worked out an entire storyline as I went. This in addition to work I was doing on the SF novel I picked up again after completing PEBA.
Feb 15, 2011 Life
So I’m in the office today and my co-worker Jalene does her cruise-director best and points me to a tray of small brownies on the counter by the printer. I grab one, and I say “Okay, now I’ve got to make sure I go to the gym.”
She and Tonya laughed.
But I meant it. I had a 4:00-5:00 meeting, and that took me to the edge of the window where I decide to hit the gym (the session was across town, and I wouldn’t get there until 5:20 or so, 5:30 if I was running a little late). No shirking, though. I had eaten a brownie, so I had to go. And go I did.
Feb 15, 2011 Other Writers
I just finished reading Ken Liu’s Simulacrum at Lightspeed. Definitely an interesting piece of work. I really enjoyed the exploration of technology in it, and it’s ramifications. But I admit I also was struck by the father/daughter thing, despite the … uh … problem … the father has.
Definitely worth a read.
Feb 13, 2011 Life
Lisa and I have been actively working on our health the past year (or a little more). We’ve improved our basic diet, and we’re getting considerably more exercise than we were. Of course, this last bit goes without saying because prior to this decision our exercise consisted of getting up and going to the refrigerator when we got hungry.
Needless to say, we’re considerable lighter today than we were a year ago. But mostly, I think we both just feel better–which was the real goal. Co-workers of mine were, at one point, commenting on the weight loss and suggesting that (1) we didn’t actually look like we needed to lose anything to begin with, but (2) asking if we just got fed up with the number on the scale. For me, it’s never really been about the number on the scale. The number is just a measure, like the Dow Jones Industrial, that doesn’t mean much in itself. Of course, I know I’m wrong. That’s just how I look at it, though, so sue me. For me the whole thing was about not being tired at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon.
I can report I’m no longer getting tired in the early hours of the afternoon.
I’m thinking about this today because I’ve been browsing through a link I found on Amy Casil‘s site that led me to an on-line book titled “The Hacker’s Diet.” It’s a book written by noted software pioneer John Walker. It’s a glorious work, in my opinion. Though I have a slightly different way of looking at the psychology of it all, the book sets the problem out in ways that fit the exact patterns I think in–which, fundamentally, is that Energy In – Energy Burned = Energy Gained/Lost. Yes, it’s an engineering equation that just makes sense.
Aside: the only real difference in our thoughts here fit in the area of the value of exercise, which Walker professed to not want to do at the beginning of his process. He suggests the exercise portion of the equation is a bit over-rated because you probably can’t succeed by just burning more calories (because there just isn’t enough time in the day to make it work this way). I agree in principle with the statements, but … and it’s a big but … if you can exercise you can dramatically reduce the time it takes to get to whatever your equilibrium state is going to be, which is valuable. On the whole, though, I think Walker and I would agree totally on this subject if we sat down to enjoy a lunch together and just chatted. He suggests that the proper psychology to go into a weight control process is that you don’t try to exercise to lose weight, but instead you exercise to feel better. This, of course, works for me.
Anyway, I suggest you read it merely because it’s interesting.
I really enjoy how Walker goes through discussing different ways of measuring things, ways that define the truth of the energy equation and allow you to ignore the day-to-day swings if you’re the type that gets annoyed by them (I’m not, but Lisa kinda is…I find the day-to-day swings to be neat-o and cool reminders that we are all strange little biological engines that have some randomness baked in, Lisa is a math major for who the messiness of real life is frustrating). I like how he introduces the value of exercise, the idea of ramping up, the simple ways of starting and incorporating movement into your life, and finally some of the intellectual benefits of exercise (being that it’s a good way to give your mind some time off to recharge–which often results in those brilliant moments of insight that you never would have received if you hadn’t stepped back from a problem).
I thought his discussion of planning diet was interesting, though to me it boils down to “actually know how many calories you’re ingesting and stop when you get to the maximum you need for a day.” This is in line with an approach Toby Buckell has posted before, and I completely agree with it except for one caveat, and that is that I add an element to that rule of thumb. My rule of thumb reads: actually know how many calories you’re ingesting and either stop when you get to the maximum you need for a day, or truly commit to the extra 30 minutes or 60 minutes or whatever treadmill time or weightlifting time it takes to burn off the overage .
I should note, though, I am probably weird. This is what I’m like: when Lisa and I first started on our little quest, I wrote up a quick spreadsheet tool that took into account what we weighed, did some back calculating to estimate the calories we were consuming, and then ran weight projections over weeks and months based on work out magnitudes that predicted what we would weigh at some form of equilibrium. Yes, that really can be done. It’s just biological science, and the results are pretty much predictable unless you truly do have a medical issue involved. I am smugly proud to report that my projections were about perfect. We have both leveled off within a very small tolerance of my original projections.
The current tale of the tape for me is that I’ve gone from being a 194 pound guy with a 36ish waist to a 158 pound guy with a 30-31ish waist. Lisa introduced me to a new-fangled machine that our company installed as part of their wellness program, and I measured in at 15% body fat (using some other calculation-based methods I’m in the 10%-13% range).
I should note that I can’t remember ever feeling hungry in the past year. And I, unlike Lisa, don’t restrain myself from eating things like birthday cake for work celebrations or the occasional ice cream or whatever. And we eat out probably two or three times a week, generally pizza places, family grills, and other “normal” restaurants (hey, we’re both busy in jobs deeply embedded in corporate America).
Will this approach work for you?
I dunno. I also like Walker’s ending pages regarding going forward. The game is not over when you hit your targets. The game is a lifetime event. The equation is important to understand, but the key to winning the game is to understand the equation in a way that works for your own psychology, to apply the equation into your life in such a way as you can sustain it. Human beings are weird, you know? We all think and react differently.
But the thing I like about Walker’s approach (over most get-thin diet plans) is that it’s based on the idea of becoming familiar with the basic way your body works, and staying in touch with it. It’s not a question of eating only meat, or not worrying about fat, or counting points, or whatever. All those things can certainly work if you stick with them blindly. But actually knowing how your body works makes things, for me, feel right. Understanding that rules of thumb are useful boundaries, but not absolute, allow me to tax and use my body as I want to rather than just feeling like I’m following some highway that leads into a nighttime that’s dark beyond the reach of my headlights.
And that, I think, is why I reacted so well to reading Walker’s work.
Feb 1, 2011 Life
Lisa and I went out and bought a new desktop machine to replace the two old clunkers we had downstairs. Yes, one to replace two … which means we’ve been having weird, if slow and drug-out, fun migrating things over from the old clunkers to the new environment. It also means we’ve been having fun with setting up one CPU to be accessible by both of us, but at the same time kinda keep our own stuff to ourselves.
Overall, it kind of works.
The project to move all our music over has spread over several days, though, and was delayed a bit with my drive to get PEBA out the door. This is dangerous, really. I’m the kind of person who does best when he focuses on something until the end, especially if it’s a little complex–which migrating music from iTunes between machines, unfortunately, is. It shouldn’t be, of course. But it is. Alas. The main problem, of course, is that there’s no simple way identified directly in iTunes, meaning it’s not intuitive and you have to go do some research before you begin.
Here’s a nice little write up I found to guide my work. Maybe it will help you move along more quickly than I did.
Anyway, I did all the exporting of the default playlist and copying music files over to the new machine a weekend ago, and just sat down this morning to do all the real work–which consists of editing all the XML data to point to where I had copied the files over. This went well, and I even got a little creative and moved a few things around before the final import to iTunes. Once the editing was done, I was pleased to see the import was actually pretty slick.
Took five or ten minutes to complete the migration, and everything looks good.
The problem will be tomorrow when I try to do the same thing for Lisa’s files. It turns out that iTunes copies these files into folders in the user’s profile–which I guess makes sense except I wasn’t thinking about that. And so migrating Lisa’s files in will–I assume–create a similar set of files in her profile, essentially doubling the size of our music files on the disk and making for a bit of a management nightmare.
I guess this is a problem for tomorrow, though.
There must be a way.
If you know what it is, feel free to shoot me a note at ron (at) typosphere.com.