Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On the Web Radio!

That's where you'll find me, this Thursday evening August 2, from 9:20 to 10:00 Eastern time! The show is called The Author's Corner, with host Elaine Raco Chase, at www.trianglevarietyradio.com. It's a call-in show, and I'll be talking about my writing and books, and pretty much whatever she asks me. So if you'd like to chat with actual spoken words—almost as if we were talking in person—check it out! Go to www.trianglevarietyradio.com, then click on blog talk radio (a silver bar, halfway down the page). You'll find a phone number for calling in. Listen to the whole show, from 8 to 1030 p.m., Eastern time! (Forget the boring Olympics—they'll be on your DVR.)

If you must watch adorable and athletic divers and gymnasts instead of listening to our scintillating conversation, podcasts will be available after the show. (But really, you aren't going to watch the Olympics Sunday night instead of the Mars landing, are you? I didn't think so. This is similar.)

Edit: You can listen to the interview as a podcast, by clicking this link:

Several other authors precede me in the interview. My own section starts at around 78:30.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Frickin Frakkin Spammers

It's not bad enough they fill my mailbox and harass my phone. Now they're sending out their crap pretending to be me, by using one of my domain names as a "return address." Yeah, I know, it happens all the time. The support guys at my hosting site (let's hear it for sff.net!) say it's a spam blast from a distributed botnet of compromised machines around the world, using my hijacked domain name. It's not coming from my account or site.

But it's still infuriating. I just want to let the world know: If you have been bothered by spam or scumware claiming to be from anything at [writesf - pointy symbol - com], it didn't come from me. I'm sorry.

And there's not a thing I can do about it.

But you know, there really ought to be a special level in Hell for spammers.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bring On the Audiobooks!

Mine, that is. The contracts have been inked, and I am now an Audible author! (In press, so to speak.) Nine of my novels, in the coming year or so, will make their debuts as Audible audiobooks. As I said previously, I'm a big fan of audiobooks myself. I often listen to books while I'm walking the dog, or working around the house. So on those grounds alone, I'm excited. Professionally it's a welcome breakthrough, because audiobooks have grown to be an important part of the book market, and this will open my work to a whole new potential audience—just as ebooks did.

No word yet on who will be doing the narration, but I've made some suggestions of readers I like. So here, now, are the books slated for audio:

Seas of Ernathe
Dragons in the Stars
Dragon Rigger
Star Rigger's Way
The Infinity Link
The Rapture Effect
From a Changeling Star
Down the Stream of Stars

I just have one more thing to say about that: Yee-haw! 

P.S. You don't suppose I should be worried that the acquiring editor at Audible is a fellow by the name of Snape?


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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sally Ride, 1951 – 2012

America's first woman astronaut died Monday at the age of 61, of pancreatic cancer. Sally Ride was an inspiration to millions, and not just girls and women. I remember what a triumph it felt to me, back in 1983, when she rode Challenger into space, ending once and for all the perception that American space travel was solely the domain of men. Nowadays, women fly missions all the time, and sometimes command them. It's easy to forget that as recently as the early 1980's, women were simply not part of the NASA equation. The Soviet Union had sent a woman, Valentina Tereshkova, into space twenty years earlier, but that had not signaled a general welcome of women into the Soviet space program. In the case of Sally Ride, it really was the shattering of a glass ceiling. After the loss of Challenger in 1986, Dr. Ride was named to the presidential commission that investigated the cause of the tragedy. She later went on to found Sally Ride Science, an organization devoted to supporting girls’ and boys’ interests in science, math and technology.

Here was a woman who made a difference. It's sad to see her passing. Godspeed, Sally Ride.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

More on the Microburst Damage

A local news channel has this footage of damage in Arlington. Again, we were fortunate in having no damage to our own property (that I've found, anyway), but what you'll see in the news report is the surrounding neighborhood. Our brand-new dog park is closed indefinitely, and the huge, beautiful tree in its center has damage at the roots and may or may not survive. The park's new maintenance shed is in pieces, strewn toward Route 2. The bike path is blocked for a one-mile stretch by fallen trees.

So far as I know, amazingly, no one was hurt. 

This is the second time in the last year or two that such a microburst has hit Arlington. I wonder if someone's trying to tell us something.

Ironically, today there's a town election on whether to uphold a town-meeting-mandated ban on the use of leafblowers by landscapers and cleanup crews.

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Microburst Hits Neighborhood

My neighborhood, that is. At least that's what people were saying it was. I haven't heard an official report, and you know they'll just cover it up like the aliens in New Mexico, anyway. But I think it was a microburst.

I was sitting in my third floor office, noticing with approval that it was raining a bit. God knows we need the rain (most of the country does), and we needed some cooling off. Then we got a couple of good cracks of thunder. Didn't bother Captain Jack, but it made me jump. Then the wind started blowing and the house started shaking. I looked out the window and saw the big oak tree outside (just beyond our property line) whipping around, and I'm pretty sure I saw rain blowing horizontally. I was starting to think I should turn off the computer and get the hell downstairs to a more sheltered location. Being an idiot, I didn't right away. Instead, I clicked weather.com to look at a radar map. By the time it came up, the storm was over. The map and my eyes both confirmed that the convective area was passing. It probably lasted two minutes, total.

When I went out a few minutes later with Captain Jack, I found the whole neighborhood out walking around. Our property was okay, but the neighborhood looked as if a hurricane had gone through. Here are a couple of pictures I snapped with my phone camera.

This one, around the block from my house, came down on the house across the street. Looked like it was being held up by the power and cable lines near the house.

This grand old tree stood right outside our town's new off-leash dog park. A brand-new maintenance shed in the dog park is gone altogether. This is just one of many trees that came down right across our bike path, where I do my rollerblading. 

The force of nature is a powerful thing, isn't it? 


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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Population of Frackville, PA

Alert reader Tim Yordy sent me this hot tip on the residents of a town in Pennsylvania called Frackville. (As far as I know, it's a real place. But I haven't checked Snopes.) Here's what Tim said:

Hey Jeff, given your involvement with Battlestar Galactica, I thought you would enjoy this. Go to the Wikipedia page about Frackville, PA and scroll down to the Demographics section and read the first paragraph.
I did. And you should, too. Read carefully. (Passing familiarity with BSG is required. If you've never seen the show, move along. You're not the droids we're looking for.)

I wonder if the other residents of Frackville know about this.

Edit: I have learned from alert reader Marco that not only is Frackville real, it is right down the road from Vulcan, PA!

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Moonlight: Playlist Killer

Moonlight: Killer App, or App-Killer Cat?
See this whitish Egyptian Desert Sand Cat? Looks innocent, doesn't she? She spends most of her time sleeping, or making good her latest escape from the irrepressible Captain Jack ("I am border collie! Run when I say run!"). But beneath that seeming innocence lurks the heart of a computer-wrecker.

Sometimes, when I'm writing late at night, Moonlight likes to saunter up to my office  and get in my way by being affectionate. Usually she starts by hopping into my lap and purring, forcing me to reach around her to type. But sometimes she ensconces herself in the space between my keyboard and my monitor. It's got a slidey stack of papers on it, and she makes them slide even more. Often, her hind paws stick down toward the keyboard. Last night, they were on the keyboard—actually, I think, on the Delete key.

I was just getting ready to quit for the night, when iTunes (always open when I'm working) suddenly began to flicker and blink. Finally it stopped. I inspected it. What's this? To my disbelief and dismay, my entire set of playlists was gone. All of them. My carefully selected Writing Music, my eMusic downloads, my Kitchen Get Your Mojo Working lists, everything. I glared at Moonlight.

She shot a bored glance my way. ("You lookin' at me?") Yes, I was looking at her. And then evicting her.

Instead of going off to bed, I went off to Googleland in search of cures for accidentally deleted playlists. I was not the first to seek help with this problem. (A lot of people must have cats too close to their keyboards.) There is no "undelete" for itunes playlists. In the end, fortunately, I located a backup of my itunes library that was only six months old, and it had most of the lists reasonably intact.

Cat, you got lucky this time. But next time... well, there just better not be a next time, you hear? Stop purring and listen to me.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Watch Curiosity Land on Mars in Realie Vision!

NASA's latest wonder-probe to Mars, Curiosity, is scheduled to land on Mars at 10:31 p.m. EDT, on the night of August 5th. Be there, and don't even think about being square. NASA has worked out a way for folks online to experience the event using some kind of 3D software on their computers, and even on their Xbox game sets. Who says NASA doesn't have a sense of wonder? Go here to see all the different activities they've worked out for folks to do in connection with the Mars landing, or here to get set up with the Unity Web Player to experience the landing to full effect. They're encouraging people to start getting set up now, so everyone isn't crashing the servers getting set up on the night of the 5th. Go here if you want to learn more about the mission.

Just how exciting could this landing be? After all, we've landed on Mars before. But not like this. Take a look at this video to see just how difficult this feat really is. If this doesn't get you pumped, better check to see if you still have pulse. Pop it up to full screen if you can.

If you have trouble viewing it on this page, go to the source.

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Is a Phone Line Only for Spam Calls Now?

Is anyone else noticing this? At least 90% of the calls that come to our house phone these days are spam. At least. It's gotten so bad that when we do get a real call from a friend, relative, or legitimate business caller, we often miss it because there seems so little point in rushing to get to the phone before it stops ringing. Most of the calls we care about come to our cell phones.

It seems like it's gotten a lot worse in the last year or so. And yet, I'm reluctant to give up our land line, partly because many of our legitimate contacts know that number but not our cell numbers, and partly because... I don't know, I just don't hold with being driven from the use of the phone number I've owned and loved for decades, just on account of some lowlifes who are determined to prey on the vulnerable. Plus, just the other day, I used our land line to send a fax. So it still has relevance, right? Right?

You want to make a billion dollars? Invent a device that will send an electric shock back up the phone line to anyone who makes, records, or otherwise causes to exist spam. (Not counting that ham in a can stuff. That's okay, as long as I don't have to eat it.) I probably shouldn't say things like that. Bad dog. 

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Relativistic Baseball

While we're on the subject of baseball (and that is not a subject you'll very often find me talking about--no offense, Red Sox), I have to mention this XKCD page: Relativistic Baseball

Have you considered what the effects might be if a pitcher could throw a baseball toward the plate at just under the speed of light? No? Why ever not? Well, the creator of XKCD has, and you owe it to yourself to read his eye-opening and funny analysis. Suffice to say, the effects on the surrounding habitable zone are not pretty. There is surely an SF story in this somewhere.

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Ohio, a Wedding, the Indians, and Vernors

We had a great week in Ohio. My sister Nancy got married to a terrific guy named Chuck. They might have planned the names better, though, since our brother is also named Chuck. (But maybe it's just continuing a trend. I have two sisters named Nancy, one a half and one a step. Families can be complicated.) This all happened at and around Hiram College, in eastern Ohio. It was blazingly hot, though we were treated to a couple of flash thunderstorms.

Close your eyes and imagine some nice pictures here. No, I don't have any right now. I'll get some.

Chuck is a huge sports fan (and former sports publicist), and he got us all tickets to a Cleveland Indians game. I hadn't been to a major league ballgame in decades, and it was great fun. Hot, though. We rooted for the home team, and they won. Afterward, as we stood outside waiting for our ride, I enjoyed seeing the "Fatty Wagon" go by, a shuttle bus operated by the Great Lakes Brewing Company, running on used frying oil, "saving the planet, one French fry at a time." They make great beer, by the way. Loved their Burning River Ale, and their Commodore Perry IPA. My sister-in-law Youngmee enjoyed their Lake Erie Monster Imperial IPA, but it was too over-the-top hoppy for me.

I am a great lover of Vernors Ginger Ale, which we can't buy in New England. I took the opportunity of being in Ohio to box up a bunch of 12-packs of Diet Vernors and bring them back as checked luggage. I'm sipping one right now, as I write this. Vernors company, won't you please ship your ginger ale to Boston?


Monday, July 02, 2012

"Book of the Day" at Flurries of Words!

Oops—one more note. I just got word that Neptune Crossing is today's "Book of the Day" at the Flurries of Words blog, a UK-based blog of book reviews and book-related announcements. Looks like a good blog for readers to check out. It doesn't say so, but in fact Neptune Crossing is free in both the U.S. and England (and pretty much all around the world), as an introduction to The Chaos Chronicles

As a side note, my sales in England have been picking up these last few months, at least in the Kindle UK store, which is the one place that gives me ready access to sales figures. It appears that a fair number of people who download Neptune Crossing for free go on to want to read the rest of the series. Which is certainly an affirming feeling for me.

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Reality and Other Fictions Goes Broadband

My new short story collection, Reality and other Fictions, is now available in the Kindle store and at Smashwords, as well as at the Book View Cafe, and will be in the Nook store as soon as it makes its way through their system. (I was happy to see that a copy sold at Smashwords about two hours after it went up, long before I'd done any sort of promotion.)

Tell your friends!  And while you're at it, tell them that the Smashwords July sale has begun, and lots of books by thousands of authors will be on sale there for part or all of July. I've joined in by putting Eternity's End, Dragon Space, and Reality and other Fictions on sale for 50% off, for at least the first two weeks of July. Use coupon code SSW50 at checkout to get the discount.

I'm getting ready to travel to my home state of Ohio for a little family vacation, so it might be another week or two before I check in here again. Hope you're all enjoying your summer! (Or winter, if your nearest pole is the South Pole.)

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