Monthly Archives: February 2015

Photos of Smoking Writers – Back from the Dead

Not a huge post, but a break from all this blubbering about the book is nice.

Aldous Huxley. I’ve posted this one before but they were of lower quality:
Aldous Huxley smoking

Cristina Fernandez:
Cristina Fernandez smoking

Fran Lebowitz:
Fran Lebowitz smoking

H.L. Menken:
Fran Lebowitz smoking

Ian Fleming:
Ian Fleming smoking

John Maynard Keynes:
John Maynard Keynes smoking

Kurt Vonnegut:
Kurt Vonnegut

Murray Rothbard:
Murray Rothbard smoking

Road Dahl:
Road Dahl smoking

Stephen King. That’s Drew Barrymore with the match:
Stephen King smoking

William S. Burroughs:
William S Burroughs smoking

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Of Art and Light – Pale Blue Scratch Email Newsletter #3

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” -Henry Ward Beecher

Even though Pale Blue Scratch will be a self-published book, I won’t be skimping on cover art. My friend Marcia Furman will be depicting one of the devices in a watercolor sketch for book cover. You can check out her watercolors here and her “normal” artwork here.

Though I wouldn’t say Pale Blue Scratch is outright speculative fiction, there are some strong elements of the genre present. One of them, more of a MacGuffin to the story than a necessary plot device (heh), is based on the Farnsworth fusor.

In the simplest terms, a fusor is a vacuum tube filled with some metal and gas that utilizes very high-voltage electrical currents. Depending on the type a fusor can give off a purple or star-like glow when activated. Since they “almost” perform nuclear fusion, fusors give off harmful radiation, though the device is a favorite of electrical engineering hobbyists.

Here’s links to two videos. One, a crash-course in building a rather professional, “nuclear” looking fusor in your very own home, and a second video of a demonstration of a much simpler fusor.

Watching either video will be harmful to one’s health but they may arouse curiosity…

How to Make A Fusion Reactor

My farnsworth fusor

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Book Review: The Ghost Box

The Ghost Box is Mike Duran’s third full novel, about Reagan Moon, a journalist of the paranormal who gets caught up, to put it mildly, in some otherwordly happenings in SoCal. I don’t dabble too much in modern science fiction or paranormal (see below), so I can only really competently comment on Moon’s first person skepticism and its “enlightening,” a certain archetypal progression in literature.

Moon comes off as a middle-quality man: not quite a loser but not achieving any great heights, motivated by money (understandably, since he’s barely getting by) and by a vague promise of discovering the true circumstances of his girlfriend’s death. In this way, his willingness to play extra-legal paranormal investigator for a wealthy industrialist is merely an extension of his day job. Not a huge stretch of talent or character for Moon. That event comes after he dons the a certain pair of goggles and is presented with near-irrefutable sensory evidence of the supernatural. In this way, Box‘s theme is more about rationalizing a strained worldview than a material-world problem-resolution scenario.

Reading The Ghost Box is not an untoward experience: plot, style, pacing, and characterization are all on point. The only drawback for me personally was Moon’s voice. His cultural references and attitude were appropriate to his vocation and station in life but it took some mental adjustments on my part. I’m too used to reading first-person narratives like Casaubon’s exhaustive academic logorrhea from Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, or the gradual crescendos of horror in Lovecraft’s short stories. This is more of a personal preference than a character flaw (heh) in Duran’s style.

Having not read anything else of Duran’s prior—except for the Subterranea collection of stories, which I enjoyed—I didn’t know how this book exactly fits in with its predecessors. Additionally, besides Jill Domschot’s Anna and the Dragon, and a forgettable Christian spec-fic/horror novel (literally forgettable; I don’t remember the author, title, or major plot points) my frame of reference with respect to Duran’s peers is close to non-existent. Take this review as such, from a reference point lacking a certain context.

Disclosure: I was a beta reader for The Ghost Box, in addition to working with Mike in the past on some other projects of his. This novel was sent to me specifically for reviewing purposes.

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Net Neutrality is a Bad Idea

I normally pay no attention to legislative news because, as Michael Corleone said, politics and crime are the same thing. Inordinately fixating on the schemes of social deviants does not reside in the realm of the sane. But since the issue of net neutrality has some personal impact as a software engineer, I have some level of interest in it.

Gary North has some good thoughts on it.

What if an Internet Service Provider wants to charge Comcast or Netflix more money, because it’s hogging the available bandwidth? The FCC says no.

This is the fundamental law of economics: “At zero price, there is more demand than supply.” The FCC denies that this law exists. So, it wants to slow everyone down by making sure that the big boys don’t get charged more.

Here is the law of bandwidth: “Bandwidth gets cheaper.” So, the growing pie will keep us all well-fed. If buyers are sellers of bandwidth want to negotiate, so what?

The telecom industry is, at many levels, very free from artificial regulation*, but by its very category, corporations—ISPs included—are regulated and enjoy artificial regulation in their favor. We don’t know what ISPs, both large and small, would be like if they didn’t benefit from government’s helping hand. The best we have are guesses and conjectures, some better than others.

I’ve heard that net neutrality is to ensure that “all information is treated equally,” which is a sentiment of beautiful nonsense. No one in the history of humanity in forever has treated all information equally. It’s impossible, and passing a law is not going to change fundamental human preference and behavior.

* I say “artificial regulation” because everything is essentially regulated, i.e., I buy one thing and not another when I go to the grocery store. What matters is who is doing the regulating and how they are doing it. Using the “artificial” qualifier is a way to conceptually separate a non-market, invasive regulation, as opposed to a market-based, spontaneous-occurring regulation that happens in the absence of central planning.

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The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People – Pale Blue Scratch Email Newsletter #2

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your art.” -Gustave Flaubert

The protagonist of Pale Blue Scratch, Elisabeth, is known by her colleagues to be a bit of a impulsive decision-maker. This trait is somewhat at odds with her vocation as a professor, journalist, and member of a religious order. Her life was an inversion of the Flaubert quote above: reserved in her writing and spiritual pursuits, impetuous in leisure.

Via Galleycat, Podio.com has an interactive chart that outlines the time spent by history’s most creative minds. Below is an image of the chart with all times activated. It looks like Franz Kafka didn’t like to sleep and Picasso quit his day job.

podio.com - The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People Infographic

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Pale Blue Scratch Email #1 – Back Cover Copy

Here’s the official back cover copy for Pale Blue Scratch, which got sent out to those of you on the email list last Monday morn. It’s no Amish Vampires In Space, but what is?

“I would disassemble this body and cast it onto the coronal burn of the sun if it means I get answers.” Thus proclaims the determined Elisabeth Reese, journalist, professor, and joke-cracking nun working in alternate history San Francisco. She has one goal: to rebuild a failed time machine that caused a lethal explosion during its initial demonstration.

With her reluctant protege, a young budding scientist, she searches for the machine’s plans left behind by its exiled inventor. But her pursuit is disrupted, threatened by area conflict. A faction of the deadly Al Sayf al Ahmar–the Red Sword–has been rising to power. Lead by the hulking Crazed Herald, Maalik du Mahdi, the Red Sword heed a prophecy that will culminate in a battle between two “one-armed wild men.” Du Mahdi is believed to be the first of the pair, while his counterpart could be anyone…even a small, peculiar nun from across the bay.

All Elisabeth wants is to witness the impossibility of time travel, but first she must battle the odds and fulfill the present. Part steampunk and part mystery, Pale Blue Scratch explores the conflict between the senses and logic, and the lengths one may go to resolve it.

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