Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Okay, this is kind of silly, but I'm going to write about it anyway. It's the tale of Grabber and his journey home to us from the Panasonic repair center. Grabber is our DVR/DVD-recorder, and our most beloved piece of electronics. Unfortunately, Grabber has been having problems with its TV Guide functions, and has spent a lot of time in the shop the last month and a half. It's now on its way back to us, and I've been following its progress via UPS online tracking. It's been quite a journey, from Palatine, Illinois, to Indianapolis, to Louisville, to Manchester NH, and then on to (back to?) Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Hello? Didn't we just pass Boston? The tracking still says it's on time for delivery tomorrow, though.

What made it more interesting was a book I just finished reading, Uncommon Carriers, by John McPhee. Great book. It's about what it's like to drive an 18-wheeler, or pilot a ship at a ship pilot's school in Europe, or drive a coal train, or...get packages sorted at the enormous UPS Louisville facility, located, according to McPhee, between two runways at the Louisville airport. His description made it sound like something out of Monsters, Inc.—an enormous building with incomprehensible mazes of conveyor belts, and packages zipping and zorting this way and that, all under computer control. At the time I checked the UPS progress report, Grabber was in fact at that place, riding a conveyor from somewhere to somewhere. It was quite the vicarious ride.

We'll see if Grabber arrives tomorrow, and if so, whether all has been made well.

"Confusion is a word we have invented for an order that is not yet understood." —Henry Miller

Labels: ,

The Home Front

It's been an incredibly busy week or two—mainly from changes in and around the house, and preparations for our vacation trip next week. One thing that generated a lot of work was the purchase, second hand, of a huge, glass-fronted bookcase/cabinet for our dining room. It's a little beat-up, but a very nice, solidly made old piece of furniture. It's way too big to come up the front stairs (we live on the second and third floor of a 2-family), so it had to be winched up over the second floor porch. The quotes from movers were astronomical, so we bought a block-and-tackle set, and with much muddling around, managed to put a beam up to attach the pulleys to, and hoisted the thing and got it into the house. (Have you ever tried to keep the lines from tangling on a 7X mechanical advantage block-and-tackle? Ai caramba.) Then we started trying to fit in everything that had been on the previous shelves, including the stereo components. Ho ho ho. Here's what it looks like, complete with the Viper pilot's helmet (more on that later):

That was just a warm-up for getting the camping trailer ready for our trip to Ohio. The trailer's been in the garage for about 5 years, unused. (It's over 35 years old, a hand-me-down from my aunt and uncle, still quite handy, but getting a little long in the tooth in certain areas.) It took me three days to get the taillights working, and that was just the starting point. But we're getting close to departure now.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, a neighbor put a Honda moped up for sale, and my wife fell in love with it. (I sort of did, too, after I rode it.) So we bought it, mostly for her to commute to work on (90 MPG or so), and I get to ride it for mental health spins after she gets home. Thus, the Viper pilot's helmet. It's fun! (Not as good as flying, but still.) We’ve had a lot of debate over what to name it, but Dragonbreath seems to be winning the day.

This entry is already too long, so I'm going to skip over the part about our argument with a neighbor over a 2-second dog fight, and the part about my daughter's truncated trip to Puerto Rico, and the battle of the migraines.

"I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top." —Anonymous English Professor, Ohio University


Friday, June 15, 2007

More Flying Stories

I love flying stories, don't you? Not a day goes by that I don't think about how much I'd like to get back to flying, if only I had the time and the money. Well, someday. Meanwhile, though, here are a couple of items that crossed my path recently.

Remember those personal flyers that populated science fiction for decades, and seemed inevitable that we would all own? George Jetson had one, why not us, right? Well, NASA is sponsoring research on it. Here's a glimpse of our future Personal Air Vehicles.

Those personal aircraft, of course, will be very sedate and safe. (Heh-heh, we hope.) Here are a few videos and image collections of flying experiences that are anything but:

  • Video of an amazing landing of an F-15 in what any sane person would call an unflyable condition. Note: you need to get past the first couple of minutes before it really gets interesting at the end. Do watch it to the end. (Are we sure it wasn't Starbuck flying this thing?)
  • Photos of planes landing at the old Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong
  • A very brief video of a 747 landing in a crosswind at Kai Tak
  • You want crosswind landings? Here are some Boeing test pilots landing 777s and 747s in high crosswind tests. I've lost track of the original email that had supporting details, but apparently they do these tests at an out of the way place in South America, where they not only get nasty crosswinds, but it won't be so embarrassing if they bend some airplanes!
Now that's flying.

"Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps." —David Lloyd George

Labels: , ,

Catching Up with Interesting Science/Tech Stories

While I was finishing work on Sunborn, I saved up a bunch of links to interesting new developments in science and whatnot. Time to send some your way before I lose them.

  • Astronomers have discovered dark caves, or holes in Mars! They might be a place where life could be lurking, sheltered from the sun.
  • In one of the more breathtaking views I've seen lately, Saturn was caught emerging from behind the Moon. It looks like a close neighbor, but really it's over a billion kilometers away.
  • In a series of amazing images of another kind, artist Chris Jordan shows us profound views of what our consumption of products, as a society, really looks like. It's called Running the Numbers.
  • Finally, from New Scientist, a couple more news items caught my attention: a new theoretical approach to teleportation (no, I can't say I understand it, but...), and a new dino discovery, Gigantoraptor, a feathered dino big enough to face off with a T-Rex.

"Fame usually comes to those who are thinking about something else." —Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Labels: ,

The (High School) Graduate

Last weekend, my daughter Lexi graduated from high school! Huzzah!

In all the last year of getting ready to send her off to college, it only very recently hit me that she was about to be a high school graduate. Wow—when I thought about that, somehow it seemed more profound and life-changing than merely (!) heading off to college! To celebrate, we took her out and got her a new laptop computer, which—by the time she leaves for college in August—she will have configured to her taste. (It's also given me my first glimpse of Windows Vista, which at first glimpse doesn't look all that different from Windows in Days of Yore.)

You go, girl!

(While her sister follows quietly at a distance, plotting her own course into the future....)


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sunborn Finished! Again!

I know it's been a long time since my last post. That's because I've been dug in, finishing the final (I hope!) editorial revisions on Sunborn, my new novel, due out from Tor Books in about a year. Man, what a bear this has been. I turned in the "final" draft about six months ago—except that it turned out not to be the final draft. My editor asked for a lot of work on the first hundred pages or so; he thought it started too slowly. Maybe he was right; I don't know, I can't tell anymore. But I did the work, and came up with a new version that we're both happy with. While I was at it, I went through his comments on the rest of the book, and took the opportunity to streamline and tighten, with the benefit of having been away from it a few months. (And yes, this is Book 4 of The Chaos Chronicles, but you will be able to read it as a standalone if you haven't read the first three.)

Anyway, as of today, it's back in my editor's hands. I printed out a clean copy (614 manuscript pages) for myself, just a short time ago. And I am going to take it easy for a little while. Maybe do some reading. Maybe write some blog entries. Who knows?

I have a bunch of other things to say, but right now I'm too tired!

Take care, and see you later!

"It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist."
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Labels: , , ,