I've been mostly neglecting LJ of late. Are you on Tumblr? I am! In fact, these days I mostly post there, which I often auto-cross-post to my Twitter account and my Facebook account. If Tumblr x-posted to LJ, you'd see me here a LOT more. It's all about convenience, I'm ashamed to admit, because my jobs SUCK SO MUCH TIME. Not that that's bad, mind you - I LOVE teaching, and my teaching JOB itself has been getting steadily better; I LOVE directing the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, and we have a bunch of REALLY BIG and EXCITING things about to happen (and, of course, it's always exciting); and I LOVE my writing career, which I'm finally, at long frakkin' last, TREATING like a CAREER... to the point that if my employer were to try to take that away from me, or if my day-job evolved to the point of no-time-for-writing, I would either fight to fix the problem or no longer work there. THAT's how much I've decided to dedicate myself to my writing.

Speaking of which:
  • Coming out soon is "Frederik Pohl: Mr Science Fiction (A Love Story)." Scheduled to appear in the Spring/Summer edition of Foundation: The International Review Of Science Fiction.

  • My Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop is getting close to full with a nice variety of writers. Really looking forward to this, as always! June 1 - 15.

  • As soon as I reach 1st Draft Complete on Jack & Stella, I'll dive back into short fiction. I have about three stories ready for quick revisions (HA!), ten more that need a bit more work but are worth it, and who-knows-how-many (six? ten?) in progress that I really want to get back to. Short stories are great in that they take a LOT less time per word than novels, and they'll help keep my name out there in the zeitgeist while the novels are making their way to shelves, but novels are ALL-CONSUMING. Every idea I come up with ends up in whatever book I'm currently working on. As it should be, I guess, but that means BLACK HOLE of IDEAS, and no new stories. Wait, that's not true: I'm planning to develop several things that are back-story for Jack & Stella into stories of their own.

  • Just about ready to submit Empire Ship. It's done (and has been for a while), but I wasn't happy with some things, and figured I'd just hold off until I had a draft of Jack & Stella, and submit them both together... speaking of which:

  • And I've reached another milestone on The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella: Just crested 80,000 words! That's up nearly 6000 in the past ten days, and all that word-count is brand-new in the past year... in fact, pretty much all of it is new in 2014, as I started over at the beginning at about 30,000 words when I realized it just wasn't working. Ah, the joys of novel-writing.



And now, because this is both inspiring and INSANE, I share OMG DANGEROUS JETBIKE MANIAC:

(Yes, I want to do this. Only I'll wear a helmet, thank you, and do a MUCH better job of engineering a proper bike platform. Are you hearing this, MadMatMax? Nevertheless, I'M IN LOVE. And now a subscriber of his.)

Chris
Why she thought it was a good idea to kick snow in a cat's face, I do not know:



I love how even the dog's all, "Screw that, I'm going inside." And the cat responds, "That's right, Fido. RUN AWAY YOU STINKY DOG OR I'LL MESS YOU UP."
...assembled into a riff on Van Gogh's "Starry Night":


Click the image to see the WIRED article and more photos. Click here to see a much-larger version of the image. Click here to see some amazing close-ups and samples of Hubble's best photos.

Astrophysics post-doc Alex Harrison Parker made this mash-up.

Science and art, unite!

Chris
...and here's the result:


You're welcome.

Don't forget the Perseids tonight!

Chris
Take, for instance, the Killer Bunny that showed up throughout illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages.

This is too much fun not to share: A joust between a dog and a bunny, one riding a snail (with a human head) and the dog riding a bunny who just now seems to realize what's up. I kid you not:



Perhaps you remember the Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:



Turns out they weren't the first to fear killer bunnies! Run away, run away!



For more on the Killer Bunny, see The Sexy Codicology Blog.

Now let's go back another thousand years to the "Siberian Princess," whose tattoos have recently been revealed in their full glory:



Those are the reconstructions, but you can see the originals and more drawings in the full article. Wow, who knew people got such amazing skin-art 2500 years ago?

Lunch break's over - back to grading final projects!

Best,
Chris
You might already knew about this, but Neil deGrasse Tyson is reprising Carl Sagan's most-awesome-ever program, Cosmos! It'll show on both the FOX network and National Geographic TV starting next spring.

More details:

"More than three decades after the debut of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Carl Sagan's stunning and iconic exploration of the universe as revealed by science, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey sets off on a new voyage for the stars. Seth MacFarlane and Sagan's original creative collaborators - writer/executive producer Ann Druyan and astronomer Steven Soter - have teamed to conceive a 13-part docu-series that will serve as a successor to the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning original series."

Here's the original-series trailer:


"Hosted by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the series explores how we discovered the laws of nature and found our coordinates in space and time. It brings to life never-before-told stories of the heroic quest for knowledge and transport viewers to new worlds and across the universe for a vision of the cosmos on the grandest scale. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey invents new modes of scientific storytelling to reveal the grandeur of the universe and re-invent celebrated elements of the legendary original series, including the Cosmic Calendar and the Ship of the Imagination. The most profound scientific concepts are presented with stunning clarity, uniting skepticism and wonder, and weaving rigorous science with the emotional and spiritual into a transcendent experience."

And here's the brand-spankin'-new trailer for the new series, just released for DragonCon:


"Carl Sagan's original series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage was first broadcast in 1980, and has been enjoyed by more than 750 million people worldwide." Including me, a few times now. I can hardly wait for this new one!

Chris
mckitterick: aboard the New Orleans trolley (just Chris)
( Jul. 19th, 2013 02:20 pm)
I realize that, like many, I've grown lazy about posting cool stuff I find on the internets, using the quick-and-easy Facebook method of sharing instead of posting a proper entry here. So here are a few recent links:

First up: Next Tuesday at 7:30pm in Lawrence's Free State Brewery, I'll be leading a conversation on "Science Fiction: Mythologies for a Changing Age." If you'd like to attend AND eat dinner, I encourage you to get there a bunch early, because the place usually fills up for these events, leaving standing-room only for those who arrive on time. If you just want to hang out and drink one of Free State's fantastic beers, well, come on down when we get started. Details here.

Today, between 4:27 and 4:42, the Cassini spacecraft out at Saturn will take the second-ever photo of Earth from beyond the Earth-Moon system. (The first was the famous "Pale, Blue Dot" shot that Voyager snapped.) The Americas, mid-Atlantic Ocean, and parts of Western Africa will be in the shot. Sure, it'll only be about a pixel wide, so your pretty face will be, um, rather tiny, but this is HISTORY! Get outside and wave at Cassini and Saturn today!

Gunn's upcoming (August 2013) novel Transcendental just got a starred review from Kirkus Reviews that calls it "Gunn's best in years - quite possibly his best ever." What a nice birthday present, wouldn't you say? Beyond being Author Guest of Honor at this year's WorldCon, he just had a collection of essays published, was Guest of Honor at the 2013 SFRA/Eaton Conference, and will see at least two more books published before his next birthday. If only the rest of us could be so awesome at any age.

Earlier this week, I submitted the fourth essay due to various people this summer. This frees me up to write, y'know, MY OWN stuff! Of course, mostly I've been recuperating from the month-long Science Fiction Summer program here at KU - which, don't get me wrong, I love, but being a residential thang where a guy needs to be "on" about 18 hours a day, sucks up a ton of creative juices. Even so, The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella - still planning to get it and my previous novel out to the agent later this month.

In related news, I've nearly finished updating my Hot-Rod Newport to using a complete MSD electronics package, including Atomic fuel-injection system, digital distributor, and capacitive-discharge ignition. I'm setting it up to be able to digitally control not only the fuel and spark, but also the timing. This afternoon, I hope to give it a try... *fingers crossed*

This makes me SO HAPPY: Pizza in Space video. Ad astra, little pizza slice!

Today's moment of nostalgia: Pac-Man as existential horror story, by the online comic, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

And I leave you with this, me wearing my new scooter helmet (full description of safety mods to come):


Have a great weekend!

Best,
Chris
Not much serious here, just some stuff to enhance your day!

First up, "El Martillo de Thor se queda Pendejo." While taking a little break from grading final projects, I stumbled across this insane video about a cultural phenomenon I was not aware of, but now must learn EVERYTHING about. Whoah. You gotta respect Mjölnir, else it tries to launch you into space. Seriously, though, what kind of festivals do they celebrate south of the border?


(Okay, I'd go watch this. Wearing eye protection. And a helmet. And body armor.)

Next, OMG am I charmed half-to-death by "Star Trek: The Middle School Musical":



Finally, if you're local, here are a few upcoming area SF events you don't want to miss:

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, the most amazing SF art show anywhere, THIS weekend. In its second year.

ConQuesT, the Kansas City SF convention, on Memorial Day weekend.

And of course in a month is the Campbell Conference. Newly confirmed guest authors include Kevin J. Anderson and Robert J. Sawyer, plus we'll host a screening of Destination Planet Negro, among other things:



This year's theme is "To the Stars," an SFnal play on the Kansas state motto. June 13-16.

Okay, I'm either diving back into grading or else going out to the garage to install the fuel pump for the Hot Rod Newport's new fuel-injection rig... decisions, decisions....

Best,
Chris
The revolution will not be televised. The revolution is live.

This is fascinating. I've been wondering for a while now why Jabulani Leffall has not been the voice of KCUR's "Central Standard," the show he took over a couple years ago when its long-time host Walt Bodine lost his ability to think clearly (a useful trait for a talk-show host). But the show has been hosted by others lately, none of them stating, "Filling in for Jabulani Leffall." Surely people don't take two-month vacations, so what's up? So I asked The Google about the guy.

Turns out that his last show was on January 16, when he resigned in the last 30 seconds or so. The Pitch has a very interesting article about his resignation and the interviews they did with him: "Leffall steered the conversation into strange territory, referencing race, eavesdropping, space aliens and God's existence." Whoah, cool. Wish he'd talked more about his visions and paranoia than the just chatting through the tedious shows he usually hosted. Got me wondering if maybe this particular show makes people lose their minds.

The Kansas City Star's story has a flattering interview with him, including these insights:

"The objectivity we learn as bright-eyed, bushy-tailed journalism students, after a while you discover it's illusive. It's a lie. Journalism is changing. Questions need to be approved before asked; advertisers need to be placated. It's about ratings and Internet hits and business relationships ... Who wants to be a journalist in this environment? ... This is not what I signed up for, and it's certainly not what I should still be paying student loans for."

He's planning to pursue his creative interests, including music and writing. At the end of the Star's story, he sums up his feelings: "Your job is not your life, and what you do is not as important as who you are."


Click the image to see the Star article (this shot is from Lefall's spoken-word album).

Maybe the guy is crazy, maybe not. Then again, I've been toying with a hypothesis that we're all crazy: That is, every one of us has some issue that prevents us from being happy or being accepted by others or fitting in or whatever - something that makes us different, that others fear or loathe or can't understand. If everyone is crazy, then no one's crazy, right? I mean, if there's no standard for sane, the words become meaningless.

Quitting a job that makes you unhappy, that makes you feel like you're just a tool of a machine, seems the sane thing to do.

Interesting how it took his resigning in this way to get me to admire the man.

Chris
Comet Pan-STARRS is at its brightest right now, and finally rising high enough above the horizon for people living in the Northern Hemisphere to see it. Lots of details and observing recommendations on Sky & Telescope's website. Here's a chart of where to look, when:


Click the image to see the Sky & Telescope article.

But if a little comet isn't exciting enough for you, we have another one coming in the fall! Space scientists are eagerly awaiting comet Ison, due to fill the sky in November of this year.

In other news, have you seen today's Google Doodle? Don't panic! But be sure to click through the Encyclopedia Galactica, and see if you can identify all the objects on the spaceship control panel. The best description of the Doodle is on the Telegraph's site, but it's full of spoilers! After you play around with the Doodle for a while, check it out.

Finally, the experiment with writing first thing in the morning has resulted in huge productivity. I've been planning about an hour of writing, but every time I've started, I've ended up writing far longer than that. I'm up a couple thousand words since I started doing this last week. (Today's work was mostly Appendix material, but also some story. Writing is weird.) HOORAY! Conversely, whenever I've start doing something else (as I did over the weekend), that's it: No writing.

For those of you playing along, I hope your own experiment is going well.

Best,
Chris
mckitterick: (1968 Chevelle SS396)
( Feb. 27th, 2013 01:08 pm)
This is one of the most-charming family car stories ever. My cheeks are damp.

From Hagerty, my classic-vehicle insurance company: Joe and Beverly Smith were the proud owners of a 1948 Plymouth Convertible until they had to sell it when Joe was drafted to serve in the Korean War. As a 60th wedding anniversary gift, their son, Joel, found a '48 Plymouth through Craigslist, fixed it up, and gave it to them as a surprise. The car will now forever stay in the family and be passed down through generations:



Okay, back to work, but I had to drop in to share this.

Chris
This new xkcd series is frakkin' awesome, updated each Thursday. It's speculative-nonfiction humor writing, leaning heavily toward the Hard SF end of the spectrum.

First up: "What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?" Here's a hint:

Click the image to see the first installment of xkcd's "What if?"

Things don't get better from there. Or they get AWESOME, if you're a physics nerd.

Chris
mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)
( Jan. 30th, 2013 12:48 pm)
To try to enhance my metabolism when working long hours at my desk and to avoid sitting-still injuries, I decided to give the stand-up desk thing a try. Here's what it looks like right now:



Basically, I piled one desk on top of another, dropped both as low as they'll go, pushed a little table in front of the whole thing, and piled a laptop writing desk and mobile writing desk on top of that for my keyboard and mouse. Still a little high, so rather than just an anti-fatigue mat below my feet, I added two more anti-fatigue mats and a rug on top of that. Good height now!

So far, I'm noticing that my lower back and knees aren't so happy with it, but I'll get used to it... I hope.

Anyone out there tried a stand-up desk? Tips, tricks to share?

And I had to share this awesome Space Kitty Rocket-Pack from artist Jeff de Boer:


Click the image to see the artist's Space Stuff page.

He has tons of great retro-space art, among other neato-keen stuff!

Chris
Fascinating. This is the oldest piece of music known to humankind, originally engraved in cuneiform on a tablet from 1400 BCE, excavated in the early 1950s in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit. It is a hymn to the moon god's wife, Nikal. The tablets also contain detailed performance instructions for a singer accompanied by a harpist (this recording is harp-only) as well as instructions on how to tune the harp. From this evidence, Prof. Anne Kilmer and other musicologists have created this lovely piece of music:



Listening to this got me thinking: In the days when this was recorded in cuneiform on clay, mastery of anything was a form of magic. Only a genius could have created this piece or performed it, because they didn't have the same kind of rigorous science-based educational system. But since the advent of the scientific method and applying it to our educational system, we have learned how to partition masterpieces (art, music, stories, structures, and so on) into understandable components, analyze them, and reproduce the effect they create in the mind of the audience.


Click the image to see a page about the original cuneiform tablets.


Now anyone with sufficient interest and patience can learn the theory that once produced magic, and with practice and a lot of effort can perform such a piece and maybe even come up with one that has a similar effect. It's like Hogwart's for everyone. I suspect this is why creative genius today is so hard to pick out from a crowd of art - anyone can look like a genius. But it's also why we recognize true genius when we do encounter it.

Chris
mckitterick: From a US nuclear test in the 1960s. (mushroom cloud)
( Jan. 4th, 2013 11:35 am)
First up, new research suggests that 2.7% Of Drivers Are Stupid Jerks, Will Go Out of Their Way to Kill Turtles. This is a follow-up to another study, 2.7% of Drivers Are Stupid Jerks. Both studies find that about 2.7% of drivers intentionally swerve in an attempt to kill box turtles or other reptiles.

Click the image to see the article.

Let's say we have 300,000,000 people in the US. If 2.7% of them are animal-murderers (a short step from full-blown psychopaths), that suggests we have 8,100,000 psychos-in-waiting. Whoah. I wonder what keeps most of them from emerging like murderous butterflies from their cocoons?

How about some GOOD news? Here, have some hope for curing Alzheimer's.

Click the image to see the Kurzweil.com article.

Some more cool science: Quantum gas goes below absolute zero. This is fascinating. Things behave very strangely at the quantum level, so I'm strangely unsurprised! They also suggest this might be the explanation for dark energy....

Ever wondered how to pick a lock? This is a great graphic demonstration:

Click the image to see the Tumblr post.


My New Year's gift from the universe was a lovely cold. Thankfully, my fever broke last night (in a puddle in my bed - seriously, my sleeping-hat was DRIPPING), and the cough has become, ahem, productive. I've also become a snot factory. On the plus side, my brain is working again.

Hope you're doing well!

Best,
Chris
Had to share this article about a woman who has been driving for 94 years:

Margaret Dunning, a charming, energetic 102-year-old from Plymouth, MI, burst onto the national car scene last summer, becoming a popular and honored guest at motoring events from coast to coast, most recently at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

"It’s a dream come true," Dunning said, standing near her 1930 Packard 740 Custom Eight Roadster on the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach. "They’ve treated me very well. A lot of people want to talk to me, but I don’t know why everyone is making a fuss. I just love cars like everybody else."

Click the image to see the article at Hagerty.

The truth is, Dunning isn’t like anyone else. She is a walking treasure, eager to share first-hand knowledge of life in pre-Depression America. Certainly there are few people - if any - with more driving experience than she has. While growing up on a dairy farm in southeastern Michigan, she served as a tool chaser for her automobile-loving father, of whom she said, "I adored." Dunning’s dad taught her to drive at the age of 8, and when he died four years later, she was awarded a driver’s license so that she could drive her arthritic mother wherever she needed to go. That means Dunning has been driving for 94 years and has carried a license for 90.

"Oh, yes, I’ve driven my share, that’s for sure," she said.

Dunning still enjoys getting behind the wheel of her cream-colored Packard, which she has owned since 1949. "I love third gear. The car just sings," she said. "I never used it as my everyday driver, but I do like to get it out at least once a month. They were made to be driven, you know."

Daniel Clements, son-in-law of Dunning’s best friend, Rachel Churches, maintains Dunning’s collection of classic cars, which includes a 1931 Model A, ’66 Cadillac DeVille and ’75 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. Clements is also something of a caretaker for Dunning whenever she travels. "Not like she needs to be taken care of. She’s like the Energizer bunny," Clements joked. "I’ve been around the hobby for over 30 years and have been taking care of her cars for 15-20. She doesn’t like to sit; she wants to be involved. She could stand here all day and talk to people."

Dunning did a lot of that at Pebble Beach. Among her many well-wishers were NBC "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, popular actor and Concours Master of Ceremonies Edward Hermann, and the Maharana of Udaipur (India), Arvind Singh Mewar, who kissed Dunning’s hand and offered her a gift. "It was all very exciting,” she said. “It certainly makes your heart thump."

Dunning has a great sense of humor, and she isn’t afraid to share it. Asked the key to her longevity, she said, “I never got married.” Whether or not there is truth in that statement, Dunning proved long ago that she can stand on her own two feet. She built her fortune in the retail clothing industry, sold her business in the late 1960s and now enjoys serving her community, particularly the Plymouth Historical Museum. Dunning’s love of history, particularly classic vehicles, makes perfect sense considering that she grew up just down the road from Henry Ford, who knew her parents and would sometimes stop by to visit. "I was told he even rocked me in my baby carriage," Dunning said, repeating a story she shared with Henry Ford III and Edsel Ford II while at Pebble Beach.

"Meeting all these good people just shows that car people are car people," Dunning said. "We come from difference places and different backgrounds, but we all have that in common."

One thing is for certain: None of the car aficionados that Dunning met at Pebble Beach has driven as long as she has, and few - if any - can match her 63-year "marriage" to her award-winning Packard.

"I’m so pleased to see that the old car is still desirable," Dunning said. "It gives me such pride. It’s quite a thrill."

I want to be like Maragaret when I grow up.

Chris
Baaaaby gibbon and her kitty friend at a animal sanctuary and rescue facility:



*ded* from teh cute.

Chris
Last night, a friend of mine showed me a 360-degree panaoramic HD video of Mars as taken by the Curiosity rover. AMAZING AND GORGEOUS! Apparently, NASA didn't release it, but others (using stitching software) created this video from HD photos. Did I mention this is FROM MARS! (Note: Turn on full HD quality and turn off sound. Egad, who picks these soundtracks?)



And in other falling-toward-planets news, here's a video that examines the physics of falling cats. Ever wondered how they always land on their feet... without continuing to spin after they rotate feet-down? This is GREAT!



Science = LOVE

Chris
mckitterick: Here's the 16" Meade Lightbridge Dobsonian that I bought for myself as the prize for seeing TRANSCENDENCE make print. (telescope Chris)
( May. 9th, 2012 12:45 pm)


Click the image to see the xkcd site.

Remember how excited or happy you felt when you learned something awesome for the first time? Sharing that with others is almost as fun, whereas mocking them for missing a cultural reference or cool fact isn't fun for anyone.

Speaking of not-fun, went to see the doctor yesterday. You know how I had a big fever last Thursday and felt better on Friday? Well, apparently all that was just the prelude to sinus infection - as of yesterday, I hadn't been able to get to sleep in less than two hours for days. I won't get into details, but let's just say the throat's been killing me and there's a constant tickle in the throat. Oh, and I lost my voice on Saturday night. Awesome.

When I called to make the appointment, the nurse asked, "What makes you think it's a sinus infection?"

"I'm getting a lot of blood drainage."

"Ah, yes. They're very popular right now."

The doc wrote me a 'scrip for Amoxicillin - my first antibiotics since the turn of the millennium. Not excited about that, because my last party with antibiotics (for blood poisoning - long story) ended with having to fight thrush for weeks. UGH. On the up-side, I'm already feeling better today, and it only took about half an hour of coughing my lungs out to fall asleep last night.

Chris
Great stuff:

Fate, it teases me with inability to sleep when all evening I was barely able to stay awake. On the plus side, the near-perigee super-sized Moon is awesome!

Chris
.

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