Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lunar Eclipse, with Lightning

Check out this stunning photo in full size on Astrononomy Picture of the Day, with explanation. Photo by Jose Antonio Hervás. Check out his site, too, for a lot of stunning photographs.


Monday, September 28, 2015


Last night’s supermoon lunar eclipse was gorgeous, even viewed from our suburban Boston driveway. It gave me a reason to bring out my Meade ETX-90 Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope, which is a compact 3.5 inch reflector that I don’t use as much as I would like. I don’t have equipment for taking pictures, so I’ll show you some that other people took.

The thing that most struck me was how much the reddened Moon, with its dark, patchy maria, looked like pictures of Mars, especially from the days when astronomers had only modest ground-based telescopes—but even now, with the Hubble.  I'll show you one of those, below the moon shots.

The other thing, as I peered through the lens wishing I could see the Apollo lander equipment, was that twelve men walked on that world over forty years ago. It’s high time some more men took that stroll—and some women, too. And maybe for some to go there to stay.

The third thing was, this was an anniversary of sorts for Allysen and me. It was the last supermoon eclipse, in 1982, that got us started dating!

Here (if the code works) is a slideshow the Telegraph put together on short notice. Our view probably looked most like the one you’ll see from Paris, here.

And here’s a shot of Mars, from the Hubble Space Telescope. Reminiscent, no?

And what the hey, in keeping with the theme, here’s a picture of Moonlight:


Labels: ,

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Happy Birthday to All of Us—Play It, Sam!

No more do you have to pay a royalty to Warner Chappell Music if you want to use the “Happy Birthday” song in public, in a film, or in your dining room! For most of us, it’s been an interesting bit of trivia that the song “Happy Birthday to You” was under copyright. But for filmmakers and others, it’s been a significant expense. In fact, Warner Chappell Music has been making millions of dollars on it. Well, no more.

US district judge George H King, in Los Angeles, has ruled the copyright claim invalid. The history of the song rights is something of a convoluted story, which you can read about in the LA Times or The Guardian. The bottom line, according the court ruling, is that the 1935 copyright claim applied to a specific arrangement of the song, not the tune itself. And the lyrics apparently were never copyrighted. Warner Chappell Music may be facing significant claims for refunds of the millions they’ve charged over the years.

Play it again and again, Sam! Play it in public!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Volkswagen Cheats the World

Every time I think I’m beyond surprise at what complete jerks large corporations can be, something comes along like the latest from Volkswagen. In case you’ve been on a camping trip and haven’t heard the news, the CEO of Volkswagen has admitted that VW has for years been installing software on their diesel-powered cars designed specifically to cheat emissions testing. Customers who bought cars thinking they were buying the latest in safety for the environment and fuel efficiency were getting neither.

This short video from the Washington Post sums the whole thing up in stunning detail.

What I’m wondering is why the CEO of VW is still employed and, for that matter, hasn’t been arrested.

More here.

Update: The CEO of VW has resigned. Who knew I wielded such power? 


Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Free Range Panglor!

The tide waters have receded, and I am back to my usual shenanigans. Today I am mercilessly giving away ebooks of my novel Panglor, to anyone who will take a copy.

That’s right. Panglor’s story is FREE, for a limited time only, in just about every ebookstore you can ask for. Buy it now! It’s free! It’s almost like not buying it at all! (But you still have to “buy” it to get it for free.)

If you are a regular listener, you know that I have done this sort of thing before. In fact, last May 21st, I ran a Bookbub ad for Neptune Crossing free, and over about a week and a half, there were something like forty-thousand downloads. That’s a lot of new readers and potential readers. (Even I realize that not everyone is immediately hunkering down to read their free downloads. But you know what, it turns out a lot of them did.) That last giveaway, intended to /s/e/t/ t/h/e/ h/o/o/k/ i/n/t/o/ entertain readers who were previously unaware of The Chaos Chronicles, was a big success. Sales were up for a good two, two and a half months after the ad.

Just to clarify for the sake of you aspiring writers hoping for fame and fortune, this does not mean I’m getting rich. I could still earn more in just about any other line of work, except maybe teaching. But sales are going nicely indeed, and I’m getting occasional gratifying emails from appreciative readers who discovered those books via the free intro.

So I’m trying again, but this time with the Star Rigger Universe—which is a more loosely bound collection of stories than the linear Chaos series. Panglor is the first book, at least in the chronology of the future history, but after that, the order is not intuitively obvious. I’ve spent much of the last week, when not fighting back floodwaters, writing all-new “from the author” notes at the end of each book, suggesting the next read in the series—and putting in appropriate excerpts of the recommended next book. Time consuming, that, but I hope in the long run it will help readers find their way in an enjoyable tour of the Star Rigger Universe.

In just twelve hours since the Bookbub ad ran, there have been over 21,000 downloads—in the Kindle store alone!

So what are you waiting for?? Queue up and buy your free book!

Kobo | iTunes | Google

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, September 06, 2015

What a Week It’s Been!

    You know how sometimes it’s just one damn thing after another? Well, around here lately it’s been one damn thing after another after another after another....

    The hardest thing actually happened first, while we were at Sasquan (see earlier posts). My mother-in-law’s dog Diego, a charming and beloved cairn terrier who was her lifeline, died unexpectedly. We were very sad, and she was devastated, and we cut short our planned post-con vacation and came home to be with her.

    From there, it was simply adding insult to injury, a concatenation of minor and major mishaps that left me reeling. For starters, everything around me started breaking:

    • On the way home, my suitcase wheels break.  
    • After arriving home on the red-eye from Seattle, I collapse into my living room recliner. Whoomp. The back flops horizontaland that’s where it stays. (The gas cylinder has just given out. The gas cylinder for which you can't buy a replacement. I eventually epoxied it back in the upright position.)  
    • Next day, Allysen informs me that the refrigerator isn't working right. What? That can’t be! We just bought it only, like, 24 years ago! I spend two hours cleaning dust and fur out from under and behind and in the works. That brings it almost up to spec on max cool, but I think a new one is in our future. 
    • The next day, I flick on the cable TV. No sound. I unplug the cable box/DVR, and plug it back in. That’s done it: It’s dead, Jim. (On Monday, the cable guys spend two hours replacing the power cord, the HDMI cable, and half the house wiring.) 
    • 2 a.m., a couple of days later. My daughter on the cell. A close friend of hers, a student with no family within a thousand miles, has been arrested for—let’s just call it very bad driving choices—in a town forty minutes away, and could I go bail him out. (A great kid who made some regrettable decisions that night.)  At least the local magistrate, rousted out of bed at 4 a.m. to release him on bond, is cheerful and friendly. See you in court Monday morning!

    In the meantime, I am working feverishly getting some changes made to six of my books in preparation for a big promotion coming up next week. Also, a reorganization proposal for my website is on my desk, waiting for me to look at it. And the person who’s going to help me get print editions in the works waits patiently for me to get back to her with some answers to basic questions. Do I know what font I want? Umm...

    • Court for the friend is an interesting experience, which I write up for my own story notes. Gotta use that some day. The end result of the court appearance being, of course, a future court date. 
    • Give it a couple of days, and I’m standing outside talking to someone on the street. My downstairs neighbor calls from the front door: “There’s water coming from my ceiling!”  I sprint upstairs. Our tiny pantry/laundry room is flooded. Our two-year-old washer (a Samsung, a Consumer Reports Best Buy!) has let go from the drain pump, sending water down through the walls to the first floor and basement. The basement ceiling and various places in the walls are opened up as I write, with fans blowing.
    • Do I think I’m done with flooding? No, one more little nose-tweak. Last night, I’m walking through the basement and almost miss it: the pool of water overflowing the particle-board shelf where sit—sat—our jugs of emergency water. Really? 
    So far, today has been uneventful. Dare I hope?

    For a writer, all things are fodder. Surely, one day I will get a story out of all this!