Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Few Pre-Move Notes

* That's right, folks. The North Texas Drifter World Headquarters is moving and we expect to be offline for who knows how long? Maybe a week. As you can see from the picture, not too many internet connections where we're headed so I'll guess we'll have to use DSL. Ha! Moving certainly disrupts my lifestyle, so I mean it when I say I hope things get back to normal in a week or so. Ha! What's normal?

* War in Syria. Another blatant example of our guys wagging the dog. Bush or Obama? It doesn't really matter. Where is all the outrage over starting another war? Here we go again. Let's hope it doesn't lead to WWIII. It may, however, divert attention away from the high crimes of the Obama Administration (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain).

* Ununpentium, as it turns out, is Element #115 in the Periodic Table.

* Do you really think Assad gassed his own people? Really? Do you believe in the Kennedy magic bullet too?

* Thanks for the oatmeal cookies, Mrs. Spain.

* If a person of another race decides to assault you, what are you supposed to do? Duck and run? Well, that's my plan and I'm sticking to it. I just hope they don't chase me all the way home.

* Currently working on two new novels, one science fiction, the other straight fiction. Hope to have the sci-fi first draft completed by Christmas. The working title is The Libran Connection. Wait for it...

* Don't know if this will be my last post prior to breaking down the tech-room, but if it is, check back this time next week. Meanwhile, feel free to peruse the blog. I won't be able to moderate the comments so if somebody posts something, it'll just wait in the queue until I'm online again.

* Last time I left one of my web sites unattended, my nephew called to ask me what was up with the gay porn. I got hacked. True story. So, anyway, if something really weird appears on the NTD, I didn't do it because I am moving and probably in my truck!

* Wish me luck! See you next week. As always, thanks for reading!

Edit: * One more... would one of my progressive acquaintances tell me why we are now allied with Al-Qaeda? This is a trick question because the truth is, I already know why. Do you? Are you prepared to accept the truth?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

I really enjoyed Spin, a science fiction novel by Canadian writer, Robert Charles Wilson. The novel is well-written, intelligent and, by its conclusion, offers up a satisfying reading experience. Published in 2005, Spin won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2006. It is the first book in the Spin trilogy, with Axis (the second) published in 2007 and Vortex published in July 2011.

Spin begins as a tale of three children, what I would call children of privilege, even though the main character, Tyler Dupree, is initially viewed as a bit of a welfare case. Tyler and his mother live in a guest house on the property of aerospace millionaire E.D. Lawton and his alcoholic wife Carol. Tyler is friends with the couple's fourteen year old twins Jason, a brilliant student who is being groomed to take over the family business, and Diane, whom Tyler is in love with. One night while the parents are getting soused at a party in the "big house" and the three children are sprawled on the back lawn stargazing, they witness a type of hitherto unseen celestial event. To the children, it was as if all the stars simultaneously disappeared. Later, they learned satellites had fallen out of orbit as well as a number of other, dramatic occurrences.

Book 3 of the Spin trilogy
To cut to the chase, an opaque black membrane, called a "spin membrane" has been placed around the Earth by an unseen extraterrestrial intelligence. Although regulated sunlight is still allowed to filter through, the membrane slows down time so that approximately 3.7 years pass outside the membrane for every second within. Therefore, for each year within the membrane, millions of years pass outside. Follow that? The membrane allows spacecraft to pass through, but protects the Earth from the harmful effects of concentrated stellar radiation and cometary impact. However, the increased passage of time outside the membrane means that all life on Earth will end in a few decades when the sun's expansion makes that region of the solar system uninhabitable. Upon realization of this fact, worldwide panic ensues. People act stupidly and order fails as populations face the end of the world.

Robert Charles Wilson
When it is discovered that the membrane is controlled by a pair of city sized objects in stationary orbit over both of Earth's poles, the Chinese (why is it always the Chinese -- like something out of a Bond movie) attack the devices with nuclear weapons. It doesn't do any good. There is much more to this tale, but I don't wish to ruin it for any interested readers. There's a lot in this one about evolution and genetics as well as the old science fiction theme of science versus religion (or faith). Be forewarned, Wilson is not very sympathetic to those of faith. It is, however, an enjoyable read and well worth the time.

The Grizzly Bear

The Grizzly Bear is huge and wild
It has devoured the little child.
The little child is unaware
It has been eaten by the bear.

-- A.E. Housman

The Evolution Of Lies

Page sample from pre-printing press days.
Prior to the invention of the printing press, a book was an item of great value because it took such a labor-intensive process to create one. Books were status symbols for the rich and literacy was the province of the ruling class. Common people, the majority of civilization, couldn't read. As a matter of course, the art of reading was actively discouraged. The higher-ups didn't want the unwashed getting any ideas of their own.

Mass printing of books brought an end to the ruling classes' monopoly on ideas. The printing press made books inexpensive and available to the masses, fundamentally altering the basic flow of information between rulers and ruled. Despite a fierce fight over repression, the institutions of church and government were forced to evolve in order to meet the new reality.

Somethng similar happened with the advent of radio and television. Once again, ruling institutions as well as the control of media has evolved. Remember, the main sources of media (and news) promulgation are owned by only six companies worldwide. The ruling class owns and controls those media sources.

In regard to the internet, we are repeating that same profound social change today. It goes without saying, the Internet has changed the fundamental way in which information flows through society. We are seeing another startling power takeover by the establishment in order to take control of the flow of information over the Internet.

All of history is a war between those who would use imposed ignorance coupled with lies to turn free men into mindless slaves and soldiers. Rulers and their institutions have lied to the ruled throughout history. Citizens are lied to constantly, unrelentingly, insistently, to sell us new products, new leaders, new wars, ad nauseum.

The founding fathers had a dream of an America where the people and the government worked together towards a common good, in mutual respect. A government that lies to its people does not respect them, and the America of the 21st Century is not the America dreamed of in 1776. The Declaration of Independence states government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. I do not consent to live under a government that lies to me. I will have a truthful government or I prefer no government at all.

You need to decide whether or not you will continue to do so. Either that or quit voting and quit stating your worthless opinions.

It is possible that with technology on our side, the age of ruling by lies may fade into history, and an age of government that must earn, rather than demand, the trust of the people is coming into being. The way you end an age of lies is to simply refuse to believe any longer. Beliefs are chains used to enslave free minds. No chain of steel or iron ever bound a human tighter than the chains built from the beliefs with which we are indoctrinated as children and force-fed as adults.

At this point, what thinking, rational human being would believe anything that is broadcast by the mainstream media? Don't believe what they tell you. Demand the truth. Do your own research. Otherwise, just go to the mall, go to the gym, go to church maybe, but disengage from any public arguments because you're not helping the cause for truth and real justice.

Monday, August 26, 2013

To silently watch someone while they are eating, hoping to be invited to join them.

Friday, August 23, 2013


"Whatever doesn't kill you...
...only makes you stranger."

Here We Go Again

One of the problems of talking about quantum consciousness is that we don't fully understand what we're talking about. However, let's give it a shot anyway.

The question is, what does consciousness have to do with quantum physics? Is it even fair to assume that the brain alone generates our subjective experiences? It is, after all, in a partnership with the rest of reality. Isn't it? So how does this partnership work? How is human consciousness manifested? Who or what is the being behind the pronoun "I" that has experiences distinct from other beings?

While these questions would seem to be more in the realm of religion and philosophy, more and more often scientists speculate that perhaps the deepest level of theoretical physics contain the insights needed to answer these questions.

Here's the short, easy answer: Yes, quantum physics is related to consciousness. The brain transmits electrochemical signals that are explained by biochemistry and are related to the fundamental electromagnetic behaviors of molecules and atoms, dictated by the laws of quantum physics. In the same way that every physical system is governed by quantum physical laws, the brain is governed by them as well. Consciousness - which appears to be related to the functioning of the brain - must therefore be related to the quantum physical processes going on inside. Yes? Well, of course, one would say, but that doesn't answer our questions to the depth desired, does it?

It is such a complex question, the question itself needs to be contemplated and broken down.

Remember the Observer Effect? This is, simply put, that the mere act of observing something changes that thing. In quantum lingo, the quantum wave function collapses when a conscious observer makes a measurement of a physical system. This is now generally accepted as "quantum fact" in the universe of physics and science.

One version of the Copenhagen Interpretation proposed by John Archibald Wheeler is called the Participatory Anthropic Principle. In this, the entire universe collapsed into its current state because there had to be conscious observers present to cause the collapse. Any possible universes that do not contain conscious observers (say because that universe expands or collapses too quickly to form them via evolution or, if you prefer, God did not create them) is automatically ruled out.

David Bohm
David Bohm argued that since both quantum physics and relativity were incomplete theories, they suggest a deeper theory. He believed that this theory would be a quantum field theory representing an undivided wholeness in the universe. The term "implicate order" was used to express what Bohm thought this fundamental level of reality must be like, and believed that what we see are broken reflections of that fundamentally ordered reality. He proposed the idea that consciousness was somehow a manifestation of this implicate order and that attempting to understand consciousness purely by looking at matter in space was doomed to failure. However, he never proposed any real scientific mechanism for studying consciousness (and his theory of implicate order never got sufficient traction in its own right), so this concept never became a fully-developed theory.

There are now a number of interesting theories that chase this idea. For a starting point, please see a book entitled The Holographic Universe, by Michael Talbot.

Using quantum physics to explain human consciousness probably started with Roger Penrose's 1989 book, The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. Penrose argues that the brain is far more sophisticated than a "meat machine" or a biological computer, and is perhaps more similar to a quantum computer -- instead of operating on a strictly binary system of "on" and "off," the human brain works with computations that are in a superposition of different quantum states at the same time. That is, that there are more choices than simply on or off.

Penrose's book ultimately rests on the argument that the mind is more than the brain (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts), but that this cannot ever be truly simulated within a conventional computer, no matter the degree of complexity within that computer. Later, Penrose proposed that the physical mechanism for the quantum physical interactions in the brain are "microtubules" within the brain. This idea has since been thoroughly discredited, but we still have Penrose's stated idea that the mind is greater than the brain.

Some proponents of quantum consciousness say that quantum indeterminancy - a quantum system can never predict an outcome with certainty, but only as a probability - would mean that quantum consciousness solves the problem of whether or not humans actually have free will. If our consciousness is governed by quantum processes, then the processes are not deterministic, therefore we have free will.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your own outlook of the universe), there are a number of problems with this, which are summed up in these quotes from neuroscientist Sam Harris in his short book Free Will (where he argues against free will):

"...if certain of my behaviors are truly the result of chance, they should be surprising even to me. How would neurological ambushes of this kind make me free?"

"The indeterminacy specific to quantum mechanics offers no foothold: If my brain is a quantum computer, the brain of a fly is likely to be a quantum computer, too. Do flies enjoy free will? [...] quantum indeterminacy does nothing to make the concept of free will scientifically intelligible. In the face of any real independence from prior events, every thought and action would seem to merit the statement 'I don't know what came over me.'"

"If determinism is true, the future is set -- and this includes all our future states of mind and our subsequent behavior. And to the extent that the law of cause and effect is subject to indeterminism--quantum or otherwise--we can take no credit for what happens. There is no combination of these truths that seems compatible with the popular notion of free will."

What the heck is Harris talking about? Well, one of the cases for quantum indeterminacy is the quantum double slit experiment, in which quantum theory reveals that there is absolutely no way to predict with certainty which slit a given particle is going to go through unless we actually make an observation of it going through the slit. However, there is nothing about our choice of making this measurement which determines which slit the particle will go through. In the basic configuration of this experiment, there is an even 50% chance it'll go through either slit, and if we're observing the slits then the experimental results will match that distribution randomly.

We do appear to have some sort of "choice" in this situation when we can choose whether or not we're going to make the observation. If we don't make the observation, then the particle doesn't go through a specific slit, it instead goes through both slits and the result is an interference pattern on the other side of the screen. (Honestly, this is what quantum physics says.) But that isn't the part of the situation that philosophers and pro-free will advocates invoke when they're talking about quantum indeterminacy, because that's really an option between doing nothing and doing one of two deterministic outcomes.

You see, the question of quantum consciousness is complex. It's a little like trying to have a scientific conversation about faith and belief. I do, however, believe the answers are out there and perhaps we'll find that faith and (blind) belief are actually part of the answer.

This discussion is only over for the moment. There are other blog posts on the North Texas Drifter that discuss this topic as well -- The New Myth of Reality, Apr 01, 2013; The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot, Jun 06, 2013; The Anthropic Principle, Oct 24, 2012; Time, May 06, 2013; String Theory Features, Nov 29, 2012. Also, as the readers of my Harry Irons Series of science fiction books can tell you, there are a number of quantum consciousness practical effects that are toyed with, especially in Minerva's Soul and Among The Stars.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Story Plots

As a writer. I think about all the storylines out there and, you may be surprised to learn, as it turns out, there are only a few basic plots in literature.

As a reminder, a plot is defined as the events that make up a story, particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, or a sequence, through cause and effect, or how the reader views the story, or simply by coincidence. One is generally interested in how well this pattern of events accomplishes some artistic or emotional effect. An intricate, complicated plot is called an imbroglio; however, it is argued by those who make it their business to argue such things that there are only a limited number of topics and that all stories may be reduced to such a limited number.

Since all plots stem from conflict, we could reduce the number of plots down to one in terms of what the main character feels and what he does to resolve his conflict. We might like to add that the basic elements of plot revolve around a problem dealt with in sequence that is in the following form: Exposition - Rising Action - Climax - Falling Action - Denouement (final resolution).

Of course, this is far too simplistic and says next to nothing about the breadth of human experience. As a matter of fact, it's an example of academic cleverness that tends to make the rest of us speculate on the number of idiots in institutions of higher learning.

Foster-Harris, in The Basic Patterns of Plot (1959), contends there are three basic patterns of plot. This contention is only a baby step up from the one plot explanation, but here goes anyway:

Type A is the happy ending that results when the central character makes a sacrifice for the sake of another character. Type B is the unhappy ending that happens when the main character does what seems logically correct but fails to make the needed sacrifice. Type C is the literary plot. This is the one that does not hinge upon decision, but rather, fate; in it, the critical event takes place at the beginning of the story rather than the end. What follows from that event is inevitable, often tragedy. (This in fact coincides with the classical Greek notion of tragedy, which is that such events are fated and inexorable.)

So much for Foster-Harris's explanation. Now, we arrive at something that makes sense. I present to you, my own, reduced, three plots:

Love, Hate, and Death. What story does not deal with one or all of these topics? If that's not enough for you, consider these Seven Plots of Story-Telling.

Castaway -- Tom Hanks movie. Definitely man vs. nature.
1. man vs. nature
2. man vs. man (or woman, if you prefer)
3. man vs. the environment
4. man vs. machines/technology
5. man vs. the supernatural
6. man vs. self
7. man vs. god/religion

For the politically correct amongst you, I don't care if you substitute 'woman' wherever you read 'man'. Sigh. In any case, the seven plots above may be further broken down into the following 20 Basic Plots, which were collected by the Tennessee Screenwriting Association.

1. QUEST - the plot involves the Protagonist's search for a person, place or thing, tangible or intangible (but must be quantifiable, so think of this as a noun; i.e., immortality).

2. ADVENTURE - this plot involves the Protagonist going in search of their fortune, and since fortune is never found at home, the Protagonist goes to search for it somewhere over the rainbow.

Cormac McCarthy novel of Pursuit.
3. PURSUIT - this plot literally involves hide-and-seek, one person chasing another.

4. RESCUE - this plot involves the Protagonist searching for someone or something, usually consisting of three main characters - the Protagonist, the Victim & the Antagonist.

5. ESCAPE - plot involves a Protagonist confined against their will who wants to escape (does not include some one trying to escape their personal demons).

6. REVENGE - retaliation by Protagonist or Antagonist against the other for real or imagined injury.

7. THE RIDDLE - plot involves the Protagonist's search for clues to find the hidden meaning of something in question that is deliberately enigmatic or ambiguous.

8. RIVALRY - plot involves Protagonist competing for same object or goal as another person (their rival).

Epic Spartan Underdog.
9. UNDERDOG - plot involves a Protagonist competing for an object or goal that is at a great disadvantage and is faced with overwhelming odds.

10. TEMPTATION - plot involves a Protagonist that for one reason or another is induced or persuaded to do something that is unwise, wrong or immoral.

11. METAMORPHOSIS - this plot involves the physical characteristics of the Protagonist actually changing from one form to another (reflecting their inner psychological identity).

12. TRANSFORMATION - plot involves the process of change in the Protagonist as they journey through a stage of life that moves them from one significant character state to another.

Classic Coming-of-Age.
13. MATURATION - plot involves the Protagonist facing a problem that is part of growing up, and from dealing with it, emerging into a state of adulthood (going from innocence to experience).

Romance at its ideal.
14. LOVE - plot involves the Protagonist overcoming the obstacles to love that keeps them from consummating (engaging in) true love.

Nabakov's masterpiece still banned.
15. FORBIDDEN LOVE - plot involves Protagonist(s) overcoming obstacles created by social mores and taboos to consummate their relationship (and sometimes finding it at too high a price to live with).

16. SACRIFICE - plot involves the Protagonist taking action(s) that is motivated by a higher purpose (concept) such as love, honor, charity or for the sake of humanity.

17. DISCOVERY - plot that is the most character-centered of all, involves the Protagonist having to overcome an upheavel(s) in their life, and thereby discovering something important (and buried) within them a better understanding of life (i.e., better appreciation of their life, a clearer purpose in their life, etc.)

18. WRETCHED EXCESS - plot involves a Protagonist who, either by choice or by accident, pushes the limits of acceptable behavior to the extreme and is forced to deal with the consequences (generally deals with the psychological decline of the character).

19. ASCENSION - rags-to-riches plot deals with the rise (success) of Protagonist due to a dominating character trait that helps them to succeed.

Fall of Protagonist.
20. DECISION - riches-to-rags plot deals with the fall (destruction) of Protagonist due to dominating character trait that eventually destroys their success.

(Note: Sometimes #19 & #20 are combined into rags-to-riches-to-rags (or vice versa) of a Protagonist who does (or doesn't) learn to deal with their dominating character trait). For an in-depth look at these plots, read the excellent "20 Master Plots and How To Build Them" by Ronald B. Tobias.

There are even more plot lists with the next coming in at thirty-six (Polti, Georges. The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. trans. Lucille Ray). In it, Polti claims to be trying to reconstruct the 36 plots that Goethe alleges someone named [Carlo] Gozzi came up with. While the list is interesting, it repeats what is listed above, so I shan't drone on anymore. For fun, return to the list of 7 plots and see how many stories you can come up with for each category.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Beware Inverse Attraction

Here's the law of inverse attraction: whatever you resist will persist. The quick explanation of what that means is that whatever you passionately don't want, you may end up inadvertently inviting into your life.

Most of us don't realize how much passion we put into what we don't want. When we speak to a friend and tell them about an awful situation, we put passion into what we don't want. By reacting to an event negatively, with the dreaded response that it is "terrible," we put energy into what we don't want.

By going defensive, we may bring about the very thing we don't want. Instead of focusing on the problem, be creative and focus energy on the desired outcome. Put the power of passion into what you want and that desire is more likely to manifest.

And so it goes without saying, direct your passion wisely.

Be creative, not defensive. Focus on the solutions, not on the problems.

The tighter we hold on to something we are afraid of losing, the more we push it away. When our thoughts are filled with fear, what we fear the most is more likely to come upon us. Fear nothing, except God, and I guarantee you will be at peace.

This is why Mother Teresa never attended an Anti-War movement. She was Pro-peace. She knew that if she fought against war, she would add more energy to wars and that would help create more wars. She practiced the law of attraction and resisted inverse attraction.

Monday, August 19, 2013

EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse)

We hear much these days about the possibility of a massive blackout due to a freak solar storm. It's the stuff of a number of science fiction and disaster stories. It makes for compelling fiction. I've even heard a few that use it as a basis for throwing the world back into a dark age scenario. Oh. but if it were that easy.

While a Carrington level solar flare could do enormous damage to the power grid as well as to communications systems that utilize long stretches of copper wire, there are things we can do to minimize the damage. For the first time in human history (as far as we know), we have satellites constantly monitoring the sun capable of giving us early warning of such an event. One of these, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), is about a million miles closer to the sun than Earth, and would give us an hour or two heads up on what's heading our way. Protecting the power grid could be as simple as temporarily shutting it down and grounding long distance power lines until the magnetic storm abates. Depending on the severity of the storm, it's possible some local distribution could be maintained within relatively short distances of area power plants.

Most of the damage to transformers occurs when direct current is induced in long distance transmission lines by the rapid fluctuations of the earth's magnetic field. The current flows through the windings of the transformers, which have little resistance to direct current. This biases the magnetic field in the transformer, causing the core to saturate and the transformer to lose control of the current flowing through it. With as much as 300,000 volts applied to the high voltage side of these transformers, what amounts to fault (short circuit) current can flow in the windings, quickly overheating them, and the enormous forces generated by the out of control magnetic field can literally tear the windings apart. But if the transformer is disconnected and the lines grounded, the current generated by the storm flows harmlessly into the ground and the transformer is protected.

While it would be an inconvenience to shut down the power grid for a time, restarting it would be quicker and easier than having to replace possibly hundreds or thousands of burned out transformers left online during the storm. Transformers, by the way, are very expensive to replace.

As for damage to electronic equipment, I doubt magnetic fluctuations from a solar storm would be strong enough to have any significant effect directly on such things. It is possible that power surges caused by the storm could cause damage to equipment connected to power lines. As said above, this could be prevented by simply disconnecting or shutting off power to such equipment until the storm is over.

The truth is, only a high altitude nuclear blast or a nearby hit from an EMP bomb specifically designed to create a high intensity electromagnetic pulse would be likely to cause direct damage to electronic or electrical equipment. So, all the sky-is-falling rhetoric you may hear from the MSM is merely more of the same old fear-mongering used to convince you that higher authorities (i.e., a centralized authority) is needed to control the flow of electromagnetic signals. Don't buy into it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I Know It's Hard To Believe, But...

...Virtually every major domestic terror plot in recent years was “facilitated by the F.B.I.” Don't believe me? Maybe you'll believe the New York Times.

Friday, August 16, 2013

In Case You Forgot

free·dom (noun)

1. The condition of being free of restraints.
2. Liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression.
a. Political independence.
b. Exemption from the arbitrary exercise of authority in the performance of a specific action; civil liberty: freedom of assembly.
4. Exemption from an unpleasant or onerous condition: freedom from want.
5. The capacity to exercise choice; free will: We have the freedom to do as we please all afternoon.
6. Ease or facility of movement: loose sports clothing, giving the wearer freedom.
7. Frankness or boldness; lack of modesty or reserve: the new freedom in movies and novels.
a. The right to unrestricted use; full access: was given the freedom of their research facilities.
b. The right of enjoying all of the privileges of membership or citizenship: the freedom of the city.
9. A right or the power to engage in certain actions without control or interference: "the seductive freedoms and excesses of the picaresque form" (John W. Aldridge).

[Middle English fredom, from Old English frodm : fro, free; see free + -dm, -dom.]
Synonyms: freedom, liberty, license
These nouns refer to the power to act, speak, or think without externally imposed restraints. Freedom is the most general term: "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free" (Abraham Lincoln).
Liberty stresses the power of free choice: "liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases" (William Hazlitt).
License sometimes denotes deliberate deviation from normally applicable rules or practices to achieve a desired effect: poetic license.
Frequently, though, it denotes undue freedom: "the intolerable license with which the newspapers break . . . the rules of decorum" (Edmund Burke).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ben Bova

Ben Bova
If you are an aspiring science fiction writer and you want to know "how to do it," then read some of Ben Bova's work. The guy has earned his marks as a writer, coming up as a technical writer and an editor. The only thing I can find wrong about him is that he was born up north instead of in Texas. I'll overlook that because he writes such solid stories. As a matter of fact, whenever people criticize me for not being scientific enough, I think of old Ben.

Benjamin William Bova was born on November 8, 1932 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended Temple University and gradualted with a degree in Journalism in 1954.

Bova was an avid fencer in his younger days, and organized Avco Everett's fencing club. By coincidence, Robert Heinlein was also a fencer.

Bova worked as a technical writer for Project Vanguard in the 1950s and later for the Avco Everett Research Laboratory in the 1960s when they did research in lasers and fluid dynamics. At Avco Everett, he met Arthur R. Kantrowitz (later of the Foresight Institute).

The 'Eye' of Jupiter
In 1972, Bova became editor of Analog Science Fiction after John W. Campbell's death in 1971. At Analog, Bova won six Hugo Awards for Best Professional Editor. After leaving Analog in 1978, he went on to edit Omni Magazine during 1978-1982.

In 1974, he wrote the screenplay for an episode of the children's science-fiction television series Land of the Lost entitled "The Search".

Bova served as the science advisor for the failed television series The Starlost, leaving in disgust after the airing of the first episode in 1973. His novel, The Starcrossed, loosely based on his experiences, featured a thinly veiled characterization of his friend and colleague Harlan Ellison. Bova dedicated the novel to "Cordwainer Bird", the pen name Harlan Ellison uses when he does not want to be associated with a television or film project.

Bova holds the position of President Emeritus of the National Space Society and served as President of Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) from 1990 to 1992.

He went back to school in the 1980s, earning an M.A. in communications in 1987 and a Ed.D. (from California Coast University) in 1996. So, if you meet Ben at the local Trekkie convention, be sure and address him as Doctor Bova. Dr. Bova has taught science fiction at Harvard University and at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where he has also directed film courses. He lectures regularly on topics dealing with the prospects for human immortality, the interaction of science and politics, space exploration and development, the craft of writing, and the search for extraterrestrial life. He has worked with film makers and television producers such as Woody Allen, George Lucas, and Gene Roddenberry.

Bova has drawn on his experiences to create fact and fiction writings rich with references to spaceflight, lasers, artificial hearts, nanotechnology, environmentalism, fencing and martial arts, photography and artists.

As of this writing, Bova has written over 120 books - non-fiction as well as science fiction.

Recently, Hollywood has taken an interest in Bova's works due to his wealth of knowledge about science and about what the future may look like. In 2007, Stuber/Parent Productions hired him as a consultant to provide insight into what the world may look like in the near future for their film Repo Men (2010) starring Jude Law and Forest Whitaker; also in 2007 he provided consulting services to Silver Pictures on the feature adaptation of Richard Morgan's novel Altered Carbon. In 2007, Velocity Management became Ben Bova's literary manager.

Look for my review of Mars on Goodreads.
Bova's Grand Tour series of novels presents a fictional treatment of human exploration and colonization of the solar system in the late 21st century. Here's a list of the Grand Tour, in order of writing:

1. Mars (1992)
2. Empire Builders (1993)
3. Return to Mars (1999)
4. Venus (2000)
5. Jupiter (2000)
6. Saturn (2003)
7. Tales of the Grand Tour (2004)
8. Mercury (2005)
9. Powersat (2005)
10. Titan (2006)
12. Mars Life (2008)
13. Leviathans of Jupiter (2011)
14. New Earth (2013)

Bova's latest -- available now.
His Grand Tour novels, such as MOONRISE, MARS, and TITAN combine romance, adventure, and the highest degree of scientific accuracy to show how the human race will expand through the solar system, and the impact this will have on individual human lives and society as a whole. His nonfiction books, such as FAINT ECHOES, DISTANT STARS and IMMORTALITY, have been honored by the American Librarians Association and others.

In his various writings, Dr. Bova has predicted the Space Race of the 1960s, solar power satellites, the discovery of organic chemicals in interstellar space, virtual reality, human cloning, the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), the discovery of life on Mars, stem cell therapy, the discovery of ice on the Moon, electronic book publishing and zero-gravity sex.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Den Of Thieves (In A Sea Of Indifference)

"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods."

-- H. L. Mencken, On Politics, a posthumous collection of essays published in 1956

Definition: Kleptocracy, alternatively cleptocracy or kleptarchy, from Ancient Greek: κλέπτης (thief) and κράτος (rule), is a term applied to a government subject to control fraud that takes advantage of governmental corruption to extend the personal wealth and political power of government officials and the ruling class (collectively, kleptocrats), via the embezzlement of state funds at the expense of the wider population, sometimes without even the pretense of honest service. The term means "rule by thieves".

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Songify The News

"If Voting Changed Anything, They'd Make It Illegal"
–Emma Goldman

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the western hemisphere, at 282 feet below sea level. Salt flats extend for miles across Death Valley, and on their eastern edge a small pool of salty water lies at the base of the cliffs of the Black Mountains. Badwater Road passes between the pool and the cliffs. A sign on the cliffs above indicates where sea level is. On the other side of Death Valley, Telescope Peak rises 11,331 feet above Badwater Basin. In winter a bit of snow often caps the peak.

The pool at Badwater is fed by a spring, but the salt which dissolves into it makes it undrinkable. An early surveyor, whose mule wouldn't drink the water, marked on his map "bad water," unintentionally naming the place. Pickleweed, insects and the Badwater Snail live in the water.

Unseen to visitors to Badwater Basin, a viewpoint named Dante's View, 6000 feet above them atop the Black mountains, offers an overlook of the basin.

A turnout on Badwater Road provides access to the basin. A boardwalk skirts the pool, and a path extends quite a distance out into the salt flats.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Basic Meditation Instructions

Ever hear about how healthy and relaxing it is to practice meditation but could not find the time or were too afraid of what people might think? Or maybe, you just never had anybody tell you how to do it. Well, here's a quick rundown and I won't fill it with a bunch of reasons of why we should. I do recommend, however, that the benefits from meditation come like anything else you do -- that is, with repetition. With that in mind, take a few minutes every day. Look at it as your private time. If you pray, it's perfectly fine to combine the two.

Okay then. Find a quiet place where you can be alone. You can stand, if you like (not recommended), sit in a chair (feet flat on the ground), on the floor with legs crossed, atop a pillow, hands in your lap or on your knees, and back straight. Got it?

Sit comfortably with eyes open or closed. Some will say what you see may distract you -- that's not necessarily so, but if it does, then close 'em up.

Take a deep breath to begin. Slowly let it out. Then breathe comfortably (slowly) through your nose.

Feel your breath as it flows in and out. Concentrate only on the air going in, then going out. Slow down. If you go too fast, you'll hyperventilate and get dizzy. To keep from doing that, control the rate of your breathing. Simply breathe at a rate that is comfortable for you. The whole point is to think only of your breath as it flows in and out.

Pay attention. As thoughts arise, let them go and return your attention to your breath flowing in and out. Another thought? Let it go. Think about your breath going in and out. Don't think, just breathe.

To help you concentrate, notice the beginning, the middle, and the end of every in-breath, and the beginning, the middle, and the end of every out-breath and be present with the pauses in between. Think of the pauses as rounded ends to each breath.

Basho meditation chair.
Sometimes your breath will be short; there is no need to make it longer. Sometimes your breath will be long; there is no need to make it shorter. Sometimes your breath will be erratic; there is no need to make it even or smooth.

Let your breath breathe itself.

Every time your attention wanders or shifts to another physical sensation, a sound, smell or thought, gently re-direct your attention back to your breath. Resist the urge to be critical of yourself (For not breathing perfectly! Ha! Like a robot, I guess.). Instead, be content to start over as many times as you need. Each time you catch your awareness drifting is an opportunity to strengthen the skill of mindful observation, a time to strengthen your mental discipline. It is not a bad thing, it's just what the undisciplined mind does.

Continue until the end of the time you've set aside for the exercise.

How long should you go? Start with five minutes. If you need it, use a timer. You know, like an alarm clock or a kitchen timer.

Practice once a day. When five minutes doesn't seem long enough, lengthen the time period.

That's it. Pretty easy, huh?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

If I Were You

If I were you, I'd kill myself.
People don't seek me out for advice. They never have and probably never will. As far as money is concerned or what to do in a crisis, my acquaintances are better off asking practically anybody but me. I'm not qualified to give worldly advice and I know it. It doesn't keep me from reminding people once in awhile to "keep your powder dry" or "fly under the radar" or some such other wise, redneck aphorism.

On the other hand, I seem to get a lot of unsolicited advice. You know, sentences beginning with "If I were you..." or "You might want to..." or the more straightforward "Here's a little free advice..." -- as if I'd pay them under any other circumstance for what they have to say.

So, I've been getting a lot of that lately. Additionally, it irritates me that someone has the gall to think they know me well enough to offer guidance, especially when they've never invited me over to their house for dinner. Why should I take some stranger's advice anyway? I mean, we're not talking real estate tips from Donald Trump.

Well, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that people, generally speaking, have a lot of nerve these days.

They're just too quick to give advice. I know sometimes it comes from a spirit of compassion, sympathy and generosity - the desire to help someone in need. But if the other person acts on the advice, he may end up worse off than before. Hey moron, I took your advice and just look at what happened to me. Now, what are you going to do about it?

I should think that when someone you care about seeks your opinion, it’s natural to want to help, especially if you sense the person isn’t sure what to do. But if this individual takes your advice, and if things don’t work out as expected, and if he or she blames you for what happens, would you admit responsibility? Probably not.

The problem is, we don't live other people's lives. We don't have all the facts. We don't know what's best for them. To think we're wise enough to solve other people's problems is arrogance, not compassion.

People are responsible for their own lives, and in the end they have to deal with their own problems. And it's good that they do. That's the only way they'll grow stronger and more independent.

Most of the time, it’s best not to jump in with our opinions. Most of us know that already because we've learned the hard way. Giving free advice to someone is sort of like saying they're not competent enough to handle life's problems by themselves.

The best thing we can do is to listen with empathy, which is what most people want you to do anyway. Express understanding by acknowledging the magnitude of the challenge. Encourage and cheer them on without recommending specific actions. If you know them well enough, remind them about times when they successfully handled tougher issues. It's even okay to share information or offer resources, if you have them.

But don't tell them, "If I were you..." because you're not and never will be. When I was a kid, I read the Sunday paper every Sunday from front to back. I even read the advice column (Dear Abby) and not once do I remember Abby saying, "If I were you..." Abby dispensed advice for all sorts of problems but much of the time it wasn't advice at all. Rather, it was encouragement. She might even wish the person good luck at the end of a paragraph.

Finally, I'm reminded of one my rules for living. It's stuck on the door of my refrigerator, held there by a magnet. It says, "Be chary of giving advice: wise men don't need it and fools won't heed it." At one time or another I suspect I've been both of those things, probably the latter much more often.