The More Things Change…

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

First, some rumor control. There has been a rash of stories about border guards detaining people for no good reason, and as much as I would like to attribute that to the Trumpster – this is not new. [Watts ended up convicted of a felony, is barred from traveling in or though the US and paid a fine.]

My wife has given notice at Rhino, and I will miss working with her very much, not only because I (obviously) enjoy her company, but because she was also good at her job.I don’t get into Rhino politics online, but from my perspective – which is abnormally well informed – this situation was 100% avoidable had anyone in charge been inclined to take action.

This is neither the first nor last good employee who has had this experience.

March 7th is her last day at Rhino. She took a new job which starts March 8th.

I have started going back to writer’s groups. I go to Central Phoenix one on Monday nights at Grand Central Coffee Company (where I’m work-shopping the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond). and an independent one on Thursday Night at the Armadillo Grill – which seems really familiar.  (My old group met there for years, on Thursday night). Join us if your are inclined, and I will try not to spill beer on my copy of your first or second draft. [Links above are to the Meet-up sites which may require registration]

At Are We Lost Yet?  I report on outdoor retailers vs the Utah GOP.

The twice annual Outdoor Retailers Show has announced that it will pull out of its long time home in Salt Lake City Utah in protest of Utah officials support of eliminating federal lands by transferring them to the states.

At Fantastical History, we continue on with giants, exploring my strange (made-up) theory about the Muans and how they became Asuras.

Muans ( a term made up well after the fact) are a race of supernatural immortals native to southeast Asia. Their lost history informs the legends and myths behind the Asura and Devas and Jinn and Oni of more recent human cultures.

At Curious Continuity, I report both facts and wild conjecture about TRAPPIST-1 and its seven dwarves.

Unless we are captured by alien slavers and dragged there, we are not going to be around when (if) human starships reach the seven rocky dwarf planets orbiting tightly around TRAPPIST-1.  Why wait for that – when we can just make stuff up. Come on – NASA wants you to!

And I updated my writer’s resume to try and land a gig writing for Outer Places. So if they made it this far down checking me out – hi guys! The links were sparse because a lot of what I’ve written for the web has since evaporated in 404 unknown host country.

The more things stay the same, the more they change.

Now you know.

 

MORE ON PETER WATTS:

http://io9.gizmodo.com/5497556/sf-author-peter-watts-found-guilty-of-felony-resistance-against-border-guardhttp://io9.gizmodo.com/5497556/sf-author-peter-watts-found-guilty-of-felony-resistance-against-border-guard

https://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/2009/12/12/us_border_guards_arrest_author_peter_watts.html

http://www.tor.com/2010/04/27/sometimes-we-win/

 

 

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A return to Thursday night writer’s group notes

In the distant past, when this was a more regular blog, I used to note things I learned at my weekly writer’s group. Currently, we meet on Thursday night at Armadillo Grill at 7pm. We’re supposed to go about two hours, but we’ve been going 2.5 hours. I choose to interpret that as a good sign.

The group is organized through MeetUp.com, but we welcome any interested writer.

First though, from IO9, and Tumblr, my new favorite blog: “Things I learned as a Field Biologist

Ok, last night we learned – in no particular order:

In China, red envelopes traditionally contain good news (or what the sender supposes to be good news). Red is lucky.

Mexico has 68+ separate languages. Purepechan isn’t related to any of them. But their culture still exists – after a fashion, throughout Michoacan. More from the Mexican Guru.

It’s nearly impossible to research Japanese actors on the interweb if you don’t have the correct spelling of their name.  If Toshiro Wantanabe (how I wrote it down) is an actual Japanese actor, he has been totally eclipsed by a physics professor of a similar name.  So here’s a good summary of Japanese movies about WWII – the reason we cared about this actor at all.

The Wright Brothers have an official website.  So does the cartoonist Rube Goldberg.

The trouble in researching the Druids of ancient history is that they didn’t write much down, and they didn’t feel like explaining themselves to outsiders. Any useful common knowledge about the religion was essentially wiped out by the Christianization process. This is what Father Oak says about human sacrifice

There is far enough evidence to substantiate the claim that the ancient Celts practiced and performed some form of human sacrifice. There is a great deal of evidence that these sacrifices were, however, voluntary in nature and that the sacrificed served as intermediaries, who took the petitions of their people directly before the God(s) of their clan.

There. We’re moving on now. (That’s an inside joke)

Pope Pius XI would have been the See through most of the 1920’s and 1930’s. As much as I hate to violate my wikipedia rule, they have a fairly balanced and thorough account of his life. All the other bio’s I found were either from the church, or from its sworn enemies.

You can still find druids in Florida.

 

Everything you would want to know about Epsilon Eridani.

 

Tesseracts are a real thing and will hurt your head.

 

Perhaps Carl Sagan can help you out with that.

 

Now you know

Two opposite approaches to customer service

When I lived in east Phoenix, I used to get my haircut all the time (well, maybe  times/year) at a little place on 48th St and Van Buren. To my surprise, I found it still open. Since I had longer hair than I would like, and some cash in my pocket, I got a haircut. Not the best haircut I’ve ever had, but a close second. And the cost was $8.50.

“We were going to raise our rates,” Ross, the barber, told me, “But we figured, with the recession and all, we’d just keep them where they’re at for a while longer.”

Hair For All Seasons is open daily at 316 N 48th Street. 480-414-7866

(There is a Russian barber in central Phoenix who gives a slighter better cut – IMO – but he wants $20).

Since January 2011, the Thursday Night Writer’s Group has been meeting at Urban Beans. We do the same thing every Thursday – like network TV in the 70’s. (That reference never gets old for me.) It’s a read-aloud group, for various reasons, meaning whatever you want feedback on,you read aloud to the group. Most of the time, even in a public coffee shop, this is not a problem.

Last month, UB started a wine and beer tasting event on Thursday nights, and we contemplated moving. But as we contemplated, we noticed that the place still clears out by around 7:45, so we just moved our meeting time.

Last night, they added live music. (Unnounced, as far as we could tell. Certainly not on their website calendar). It was just a guy with an accoustic guitar plyng in the corner. So we plowed forward. It was still softer and less annoying than the expresso machine.

Halfway through our meeting, the owner comes to our table and asks if we could not read our stuff while the musician was playing.

“This is what we do.” I explained. “This is what we always do, every Thursday night.”

Yes, well, but the owner explained that she was trying to transition towards more of a wine bar.

So in front of her, I counted the patrons at our table (8) and the patrons elsewhere in the shop (5). I also noted that we all bought something.

“Sure.” She said, “Butare you going to be here next week?”

“We have done this every Thursday night for the better part of a year.”

That seemed to run her out of logic. Nonetheless, there seemed no compromise possible. She didn’t want us doing what she did while the music was going.

I can say with some confidence that 4 of the other patrons would have been there anyway. There was only one patron actually listening and responding to the guitarist. (He wasn’t bad -but he wasn’t why we were there.)

But the owner had been clapping enthusiastically on the far end of the shop at the end of every song. A clue perhaps.

OK – she owns the place. If she wants to turn it into her private wine bar, she can. We’ve brought in 6-12 and sometimes more paying customers every week, and would’ve continued to do so had we not been asked to stop. But we were effectively driven out.

That said, we have learned from Coffee Unlimited and Dolce Expresso that good coffee alone won’t pay the bills. We were very welcome in both places, but both places have shut down. So maybe this a desperate attempt to change directions before that happens. Maybe.

I suspect, though, based on what I saw,that she’d simply rather have a wine bar than a coffee shop. And we were in the way of that dream.

If you are driving away paying customers with no ready replacement for that revenue, then what you have is a hobby. That might soon suck for her employees, who have been nothing but cool to us throughout our time there.

We now meet at the Armadillo Grill, a sports bar of all things, but they have a well-lit and quiet back room, and they seemed happy to have us, so long as most of us bought something. Which most of us always do.

That barber’s been in business for 30 years, even without a mission statement on his website (he doesn’t have one I could find), and he’ll stay in business until he retires. I could not confidently predict that about Urban Beans. Not that it matters – because I won’t be back.

Now you know.

Graphic displays of hope and fear (and some words for the writers)

From the NYTThe top bar is how wealth is actually distributed in the US. The middle bar is how (via survey) we commonly believe it is distributed in the US. The bottom bar is how we think (again via surveys) wealth should be distributed, given the choice.

That’s right – in reality, the top 20% of the income bracket owns 85% of the country while  the bottom 40% of us own nothing. When liberals whine that our defecit is at least partially caused by not taxing the rich enough – they actually have a case to make. But, as the New York Times article this was pulled from points out:

Why would the poor oppose taxes on the wealthy? Because many believe that they, or at least their children, will eventually be wealthy, voting for taxes on the rich may feel like voting for taxes on themselves. As a result, even the word “redistribution” has negative connotations.

So hope contributes to our national debt as much as fear. Good to know.

We’ll come back to hope. On the subject of fear – here’s the graphic truth about radiation levels courtesy of XKCD:

So you don’t take HP damage until you absorb a full Sv. And you don’t get that much accidentally.

What’s happening in Japan is pretty much a worse-case scenario about nuclear plant disasters. If this is all an 8.9 quake and a Tsunami can do to a coastal nuclear plant (so far, no one outside of the plant itself has taken harmful levels of radiation) – then its simply not that dangerous. How many people die every year mining coal?

Thousands (worldwide).

Vintage Russian safety posters – from English Russia. It translates “Don’t clean the cylinder while it’s in motion.”

Some links and notes (mostly words) from Writer’s Group – and elsewhere:

Join  or meet our gang at First Friday tomorrow night. Chaos of the Earth Cafe and Art Collective – 910 N. 5th Street (downtown Phoenix) – from 6pm to 10p.

One of our own – Greg Clifford –  has published a story in Golden Visions Magazine.

Literotica is a real thing – and NSFW.

A sample of Eudora Welty’s southern literate charm: Why I Live at the Post Office

Kelly and Kelly’s Moorea website. It was all true – with photos.

Finally, James Gleick explains to Wired magazine how everything is information and information is everything.

Now you know.

How I spent my vacation

I took some vacation to coincide with the kid’s spring break, and to get some work done on the house (still hail damaged) while the weather is good.

If you remove the ugly siding from my house, the turquoise cinderblock beneath  is even worse. BUT my backyard is now a more organized landfill with my new shed. If you build a pre-fab metal shed, you have to get it square and level, or the holes won’t line up. But after 8 hours, you really stop caring and just screw into the metal wherever you have to. It’s a shed. It keeps the rain off the lawnmower and the sun off of the plastic sawhorses. Relax.

That said, beer does not make the roof assembly go any easier.

I am studying for my ETCP rigging certification. Really. So I’ve been covering basic force calculation and remedial pythagoran theorems. to wit:

If you have a weight (some big stupid moving light) hung from a truss supported by two motors, and you want to know the weight held by a particular motor, the formula is:

F= D2/span x Wt

Where F is the force

D2 is the distance past centerline (or in this case, the point the weight hangs from)  opposite from the motor

span is the entire span between the motors

and Wt is the weight of the thing.

I won’t get into the algebra and the special cases and such, but a few things to remember:

This formula also works for bridles

Remember to include the weight for everything in the air

When figuring bridles, its helpful to know that they reduce themselves to triangles, and all sorts of remedial geometry applies.

When calculating a circumference, PIxDiamter = (2PI)radius. This isn’t a secret, I just never realized it.

For the writers:

Duotrope’s Digest lists “over 3325 current Fiction and Poetry publications” online and free and search-able.

One writer’s encounter with “gastronaughts” and blood pork.

And fat may help us live forever after all. This National Geographic article splits the difference between scientific journal articles and pop-news coverage.

(These topics all came up at our Thursday Night Writer’s Group)

Did I post this already?: Mike Brotherton’s hard SF resource page

And finally,

Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why religious fundamentalism is the opposite of progress.

You Tube teaser – if you don’t have time for the full talk:

Now you know