Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

The last packages are wrapped, finally, and it's time to go to bed. But first I want to wish everyone out there a wonderful, peaceful Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, and generally terrific weekend. Take care, everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2005

More of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Let's start with the Good. Astronomy Magazine has a year-end wrap-up of the top ten stories of the year. Ordinarily I feel pretty jaded about lists like that, but 2005 really was an extraordinary year in astronomy. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • An outburst of energy from a magnetar (highly magnetized neutron star) on the far side of the Milky Way galaxy.
  • Space shuttle Discovery returns to space. (If temporarily.)
  • The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity—designed to work for 3 months—are still exploring, almost two years into their mission.
  • We got to play cosmic Whack-a-Mole as Deep Impact smacked Comet 9P/Tempel and brought back tons of information about comet structure.
  • A tenth planet? Maybe—it's up to the astronomical semanticists. I'm pulling for tenth planethood and the name Xena for 2003UB313.
  • Titan! We had ringside seats for Huygens' landing on Saturn's cloudy moon. Fantastic!

Still with the Good, but closer to home, my local paper just ran a nice story about my soon-to-appear novel, Battlestar Galactica: the Miniseries. You can even read it online. (By the way, if any of you sees the book in a store, please post and let me know. The writer is usually the last to know that his book is out.)

All right. The Bad.

What else? Bush. This time it's news of his almost-certainly illegal wiretap spying on American citizens following 9/11. And he's still claiming it's within his constitutional powers! I guess, if you believe you're anointed by God, you think these things. Like you think it's okay to be free to torture people, even though you of course would never actually do it.

Did I say that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was safe for the moment? Only a moment, as it turns out. They're at it again, and this time they might sleaze it through—by attaching it as an amendment to a military bill, which will probably be voted on in the next two days. If you oppose this drilling, as I do, call your senators!

There is Good in all of this, however. Increasingly, moderate Republicans are stirring, recognizing that the radical right has gotten out of control. Kudos to Senator McCain for sticking to his guns on the ban on torture! Thank God for people of integrity on both sides of the aisle. And kudos to the Iraqi people for turning out in record numbers for their election. Despite my criticism of the war, I do want to see things turn around for that embattled nation.

The Ugly.

Manufacturers have been putting lead in vinyl lunch boxes made for children. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (quoted at, the amount is small. But why should there be any?

So go back and read the Good part. No reason to end this on a downer.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Autographed Books Make Great Gifts

Lots of people like to give personalized, autographed books for special occasions (like Christmas). I have most of my books available for sale, including the majority of the out-of-print titles, and I'm happy to sign and personalize any copy that's ordered directly from me.

Between now and Christmas, I'm offering a 15% discount on the price of any book that's listed on my web site. You can see a price list at (I'm coming in a little late with this, I know. But better late than never, I hope.) Most books are at cover price before the discount. Some out-of-print titles in short supply are priced higher.

If you'd like to take advantage of this offer, just subtract the 15% and tell me it's because of this offer. This is not a high-tech operation, unless you consider Paypal to be high tech. (Hm. OK, I guess it is, when you get right down to it. But I don't have a shopping cart or anything like that—just an order blank you can print out and mail, or send by email.)

I now return you to your regularly scheduled wait for a new blog entry.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Farewell, Little Sam

We said a last good-bye to our elderly beagle, Sam, today. He'd gone blind and mostly deaf, and was failing in other ways. So we took him to the vet to release him from his body. I believe it was the right thing to do, but it's so hard. Sam had been with us for about eight years. We guessed he was six or seven when we took him in from a family that couldn't keep him, but they had taken him in as a stray, so nobody knew his real age or his past.

He was a big-hearted little guy, though he was also the most trying dog to live with we've ever owned—obsessed with food and prone to accidents in the house. But we loved him anyway. We still remember how he sprang to our cat's defense when a visiting husky went after her: Sam jumped right into the breach and raised holy hell until we got there to intervene. And when Moonlight (the cat) and Hermione (our boxer) got into a tiff over a fallen piece of cold broccoli on the floor, it was Sam who swooped in and gulped it down before either of them could react. And when our kids were first learning piano, Sam and Hermione formed a wonderful Ahhh-ooohhh! chorus.

Sam's on the rainbow bridge now, but here he is with his buddies during easier times.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Kudos to Julia

Did I mention that my daughter Julia recently won a cash award for a short SF story she wrote for last summer's international science fiction writing contest? (It was sponsored by a consortium that included UNESCO, the European Space Agency, and other groups I've never heard of—and also, in the U.S., the National Space Society.)

She got word last summer that she'd won the U.S. portion of the competition for middle school aged kids, and that her story was going on for international judging. She didn't win that final stage, and had assumed that her only prize was the knowledge that she'd won the U.S. section. But several months later, out of the blue, came a check in the mail. At age 13, she's now earned more per word for a short story sale than I ever have in my entire career! You go!


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Harry Potter 4

One of the things my family did on Thanksgiving was to go see the new Harry Potter movie, Goblet of Fire. I quite enjoyed it—although I found myself thinking of an old episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which, during a particularly long sequence of gloomily lit black-and-white scenes (involving some sort of swamp creature) one of the robots turned to the others and said, "We should all get together and buy this movie a light." That's kind of how I felt about Goblet of Fire.

The kids enjoyed the movie, but less so than the gr'ups. I'm not sure if it's because of the increasingly dark character of the films (both literally and figuratively) or because of all the parts that were cut. I may have benefited from not remembering the books very well. When the third movie came out, both girls foamed at the mouth about what an abomination it was—though they later softened to conceding that it was possible to enjoy it if they thought of it just as a movie and not as an adaptation of a book they loved. Still, everyone in my family agrees that—never mind what the critics say—the first two movies were the best.

I've been working hard on Sunborn, which is why I haven't been posting much here lately. If you don't see me much for a while, that's probably a good sign.