Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Library of the Future

I sometimes ponder what I would like my personal library to look like, in my future dream house. Lots of books, of course, and a few easy chairs. Nice woodwork. But a growing part of my library is ebooks, and how do you put ebooks where you can browse the spines, or pull books out at random to look at their covers? One of the things I like to do in my SF collection is to once in a while just look at the covers, and build a kind of gestalt feeling of all those wonderful stories gathered in one place.

So here's my plan. Along with all those paper books, I'll have a digital frame displaying a slideshow of the covers for all my ebooks. Understand, that's a stopgap measure, until the technology catches up with what I really want—a holographic display of the book images, arrayed sort of the way iTunes displays album covers when you're running a playlist. You'd be able to flip through the display with your fingertips, and if you find one you want to read right then, just pull it out of the holo. Sort of like this display at, only in full-sized full-holo. That action will cause the book to download, if necessary, into whatever magnificent reading device is current then, and open for reading. Sans dust mites.

The best of both worlds.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Flying Subs

I can't decide whether I'd rather have a flying car or a flying submarine. Both seem right up my alley. Last week's New Scientist has another article about progress toward a flying sub. (I know I've written about this before, but I can't find my own post on the subject!) Some of the possibilities being considered: use of jet turbines both for air and underwater propulsion (the underwater use being powered by electric motors, rather than jet combustion), the use of air/hydrofoils for both flight and forced submersion. Of course, the work at this point is being pursued on behalf of the military, but I'm rooting for a civilian version, too. I'd link to the article, but most of it is behind a paywall for subscribers, unfortunately. 

All this puts me in mind of Tom Swift, Jr.'s diving seacopter, from the juvenile novel of 1956. That handy invention used an atomic-powered central rotor in the middle of a flying saucer. To fly, it spun to force air downward. To submerge, it reversed to force water upward. I wonder if the folks at DARPA have given any thought to hiring Tom. Here's what the Ocean Arrow looked like...

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"About:robots" Answers

Okay, time's up.  Here are the references in the page you get when you enter "about:robots" into the URL box in Firefox:

  • From the page title (in the top bar):
    Gort!  Klaatu barada nikto!
    From original movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. Spoken to the robot Gort by Patricia Neal's character, translated roughly as: "Gort! Don't destroy the Earth!" or possibly, "Stay your hand!"
  • Robots may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    Isaac Asimov's First Law of Robotics.  Somewhat observed by Roombas, not so much by unmanned aerial killer drones.
  • Robots have seen things you people wouldn't believe.
    From the movie Bladerunner.  Spoken by the homicidal Nexus 6 robot shortly before he dies. 
  • Robots are Your Plastic Pal Who's Fun To Be With.
    Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Robots have shiny metal posteriors which should not be bitten.
    Bender, from Futurama
  • And they have a plan.
    The Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, of course       
  • And finally, the button "Please do not press this button again"
    Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Mozilla Easter Egg: Zort!

If you have Firefox on a Windows PC, type this into the URL window:


Just that. (It didn't work on my daughter's Linux netbook. But it seems to work in Windows and Mac.)

I'll send a free Chaos Chronicles ebook collection to the first person to identify all six references, plus mine in the title of this post!

Do you know of other Mozilla Easter eggs?

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010


This weekend, my favorite SF convention takes place in Burlington, Mass. Readercon is a great gathering of writers, editors, artists, and most of all, readers—people who really love to read, think, and talk about books. I'll be there Friday and Saturday, available for a kaffeklatch on Friday, and signing books Saturday at 3 p.m. If you're there, please say hello!

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Flying Car-a-chute

What better way to start the holiday weekend (or end it, since I forgot to post this after I wrote it) than to see a flying car fly! This I-TEC Maverick Sport Model is different from the Transition and the Switchblade that I've written about before. It's more like a car/ultralight. Drive it like an open jeep, then pop a chute, start up the propeller, and take off in just 250 feet. Awesome. 

Read about it and see the video here.  (Warning--the video starts with a lot of superfluous racing around like a dune buggy, so you might want to fast-forward to the flying part.)

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Writing Sitrep

Promises, promises. I swore I'd keep you informed how work was going on the new book, which in case you're forgotten is called The Reefs of Time, fifth volume in the Chaos Chronicles. The answer is: slowly, but steadily. Life continues to get in the way sometimes. Especially life with kids and a mortgage. But I'm solving problems with the book one by one (story problems, I mean), and it's getting there. This time I'm dealing with time travel—yes, in the Chaos universe, which is the same as the Starstream universe introduced in From a Changeling Star and Down the Stream of Stars. The starstream itself comes into play in this book, as well as the center of the galaxy, where the Survivors lurk. It's my first real foray into time travel, and I'm finding that possibilities and complications pop out of the woodwork every time you turn around.

The really good news is that I realized just this week that I was enjoying working on the book a lot more than I have for quite a while. That's the best news of all.

Meanwhile, to help pay the bills, I'm working with another author on a nonfiction project (as a paid consultant editor-writer, not as primary author). It's taking us into some interesting areas of the law—and, as it turns out, the BP oilspill. Eeesh, what a mess!

It's nice sometimes to retreat to my fictional pan-galactic world. 

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Slight Change to the Blog

"Engineers! Always changing things!"  So said Dr. McCoy, in the first Star Trek movie.  Generally speaking, you can't accuse me of doing too much of that with my website or my blog. But if you look to the right (if you're reading this on the actual blog, and not on Facebook or through a feed), you'll see one overdue change. That's right—an ad for my books! I've got books in the Kindle store now, and lots of other stores, and it's high time people knew about it. What a concept. Click through! Give it a try! 

My website has been due for a makeover for, oh, maybe ten years or so. Its appearance is pretty last century. I have lots of ideas (including switching to Wordpress, maybe, and merging this blog into it), but little time. Several people have offered to help. But the problem is that it's a big project that I need to oversee myself, and can't just hand off to someone. So that's going to wait a little longer.

I raised the question earlier of whether blogging was a good use of my time. I guess my answer is, I'll continue to do it as the impulse seizes me, as I always have. So, yeah, you'll still have this blog to kick around for a while. Think of it as a beat-up old glow-in-the-dark soccer ball. (I sort of like that image.)

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