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Updated: 2 hours 48 min ago

So where are they?

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 19:33

Scientists have pretty much ruled out the chance of there being a really advanced alien civilization near us. By really advanced, they mean a Kardaschev Level 3 civilization – one capable of harnessing the energy of an entire galaxy. The search covered 100,000 nearby galaxies and didn’t detect any sign of such a civilization, which could be found by its heat signature. The jury is still out on less advanced civilizations though.

Unable to secure funding fr (more)

The Monarch on sale

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 09:13

The Monarch: A Thriller, a novel by local author, Jack Soren, is on sale on for $2.99. The blurb says: “Fans of thrilling adventures and international suspense will love Jack Soren’s whirlwind debut novel—a tale of two thieves detoured on the road to redemption.”

Normally, I wouldn’t be interested (I like thrillers, but given the number of SF novels I’ve bought but haven’t read yet, I just (more)

A Word 2013 annoyance

Mon, 05/25/2015 - 18:36

I was recently upgraded from Word 2010 to Word 2013 at work and generally, I like it. But I have found one annoying change that I first thought was a bug.

In earlier versions of Word, turning on text boundaries showed you the overall text boundaries for your page – in other words, the area bounded by your margins. This was handy for judging the layout for things like tables that might extend past the margin boundaries.  Now, in Word 2013, the text boundaries show for each paragraph. This is essentially useless information and can be visually distracting to the point where (more)

2015 Aurora Award nominees

Sun, 05/24/2015 - 12:44

The nominees for the 2015 Aurora Awards have been announced. The Aurora Awards are for Canadian science fiction, fantasy, and fan achievement and will be announced at SF Contario 6 in November. The novel category is particularly strong this year – at least three of them would have been legitimate contenders for the Hugo this year had not the Puppies peed in the dish.

We are proud to announce the 2015 Aurora award ballot for work done in 2014 by Canadians. Voting for the awards will begin for members of C (more)

Trailer for Childhood’s End

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 05:17

Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is one of my favourite books – I’ve read it at least six times and when I taught an SF course years ago, it was the movel I used as an example of 1950s SF. It still holds up and hasn’t dated badly at all. Now SyFy is making it into a three-part mini-series and the first trailer is out. And it looks promising. I am cautiously optimistic, although the comments on the SF Signal site are much less so.

Written (more)

The Hugo Controversy makes the WSJ

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 05:49

Well, the Hugo controversy has hit the big time – it’s come to the notice of the Wall Street Journal.

The success of the Puppies stunned and outraged many authors and fans. They say the Puppies’ claims are nonsense and that their real beef is with science fiction’s move toward greater diversity, with growing prominence in recent years for women, minority and gay authors and an increased focus on social and gender issues. To them, the Puppies’ supporters are carpetbagger (more)

Use gaming peripherals to be more productive

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 18:43

Gizmodo points out that you can use gaming keyboards and mice to increase your productivity with business applications. As well as being more ergonomic than the (typically junky) keyboards/mice found on most business PCs, they come with extra keys, buttons, and software that you can you to automate common tasks.

Here are some of the key advantages I’ve discovered:

  • Dedicated buttons means less finger gymnastics: One of the most annoying things about making custom keybo (more)

Fake plane crash shuts down Yonge Street

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 06:49

Movie and television shoots are a common sight in downtown Toronto, especially during the summer. I almost made it into a scene in Red a few years ago, as I was walking by the Royal York. Occasionally they take over an entire street, as happened this weekend on Yonge Street with the movie, Suicide Squad. I’ll have to see this one, just to see how many of the locations I can identify – although it’s harder than you might think.


Hugo Thoughts – Skin Game

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 16:32

This is the first in what will be a series of posts recording my thoughts on this year’s Hugo nominations. As a result of the hijacking of the nominations by the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies (yes, really), I registered as a supporting member in Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention, which administers the Hugo voting. As part of the voting process, recent Worldcons have been electronically distributing a voters packet to registered members, containing most of the short fiction, novels (either full or ex (more)

The two Soos

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 13:49

Here’s an article from the Chicago Tribune comparing the two Soos, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Ontario. Being from the Ontario Soo, I could quibble about a few points (like poutine being one of the Soo’s main dishes – it’d be several spots down in the list behind pizza, lasagna, whitefish,  cabbage rolls, and perogi) but otherwise, a good overview of the area.

These two communities are twin cities by name but not appearance, attractions or size. (more)

How Google Judges Quality

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 05:36

A while back, Google started making changes to its search algorithm to emphasize quality instead of more easily gameable metrics like the times the page was linked to. This upset more than a few people who had made lucrative careers trying to game Google’s system. Neil Patel has published a long article on the Content Marketing Institute site in which he explains the rationale behind the change and provides some details on exactly what Google looks for to give a site a high ranking. He then explains what (more)

Another FrameMaker ExtendScript webinar

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 05:46

Recently, Adobe webcast another webinar on FrameMaker’s ExtendScript programming language, presented by Rick Quatro. I had a look at some of it today, and found that Rick displayed some useful scripts. One in particular, should be part of FrameMaker in the next release – it displays a hyperlinked list of all the headings in a document in a small window, similar (although much less polished) than Word’s document map.

If you’re new t (more)

Not going to see new Avengers movie

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 18:43

I decided last week that I wasn’t going to bother seeing the new Avengers movie. Partly, that’s because I’m just tired of all the Marvel superhero movies – they’ve oversaturated the marker, and The Avengers is sheer overkill. The other part is that, based on several reviews I’ve seen, it’s just not that good. In fact, if you believe Peter Watts, it’s a lot worse than not good (spoiler warning):

There was one brief shining moment when I thought Ultron might have actually surpassed Ex Mac (more)

Some more doom and gloom

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 18:52

Herewith,  links to a few articles that suggest that our future my not be very rosy.

  • Ice Loss in West Antarctica is Speeding Up:  “The new paper provides an improvement to the resolution of GRACE. They find that the western part of Antarctica is losing mass at 121 billion tons (gigatons) a year. This rate has increased recently.”
  • (more)

2015 Locus Award finalists

Mon, 05/11/2015 - 05:24

Locus Magazine has announced the finalists for the 2015 Locus Awards. These are voted on by subscribers to Locus and readers in the SF community; anyone can vote but Lucus subscribers’ votes count double. The novel finalists are much closer to what I expected to see for the Hugo awards, before the Sad/Rabid Puppies muddied the waters. I’m glad to see William Gibson’s The Peripheral on the list as it was a brilliant book.


A government out of control

Sun, 05/10/2015 - 12:39

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Stephen Harper is the worst prime minister in the history of Canada. Over the last nine years, he and his government have done more harm to the institutions of this country than any previous government. If you think I’m being hyperbolic, read this article by Andrew Coyne. All of the events detailed in the article took place in one day – multiply that by nine years, and weep.

The point is, this was all in the spac (more)

Invading Texas

Thu, 05/07/2015 - 19:27

If you want an example of just how crazy the U.S. political scene has gotten, you could search a long time before you found something that beats this story – the U.S. Army is preparing to invade Texas. At least that’s what more than a few Texans believe.

Texas has the rare distinction among U.S. states of having been, for a decade in the 19th century, its own nation. That history of independence, that lingering pride of sovereignty, has never (more)

A cautionary tale for Alberta

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 18:57

There was a sea change in Alberta politics yesterday as the province elected an New Democratic Party (NDP) government, booting out the Progressive Conservative (PC) party that had been running the province for more than 40 years. For any U.S. readers not familiar with Canadian politics, the equivalent in the U.S. would be the Democrats sweeping Texas. The new premier, Rachel Notley, is the daughter of Grant Notley who might have accomplished the same feat 30 years ago if he hadn’t died in a plane crash in 1984. Notley will have a tough job managing the expectations of her new legislat (more)

Fiddling while the world burns

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 19:04

It’s hard not to get discourage when I see stories like this. The Republican-proposed NASA budget guts Earth sciences research in the name of getting NASA back to its “real mission” of space exploration. God help us if one of those bozos gets elected President in 2016. Talk about willful blindness. They’ll still be denying global warming while waves are hitting the steps of the White House.

The arguments of Ted Cruz and his Republican com (more)

And you thought US medicine couldn’t get any worse

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 18:53

If you thought US medicine couldn’t get any worse, think again. Now the free market medical system has found yet another way to make money on the back of its patients, and in the meantime, make it harder for ordinary (read the 99%) people to get medical care. Welcome to concierge medicine.

It started as a little itch. In a 777 bumping from updraft to updraft above Central Ameri (more)