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Updated: 21 min 58 sec ago

Global warming may make our winters worse

9 hours 50 min ago

It seems counter-intuitive but global warming may be making our winters worse. The reason – the melting of Arctic sea ice is changing the path of the jet stream  – remember last winter’s polar vortex? It may become a permanent fixture.

Back in 2012, two researchers with a particular interest in the Arctic, Rutgers’ Jennifer Francis and the University of Wisconsin-Madi (more)

Old Time Radio Shows

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 08:56

Here’s a vast collection of old radio shows from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The collection includes X Minus One, which featured much classic science fiction with stories by Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Murray Leinster, Isaac Asimov, and many others. I remember listening to some of these when I was a child.

Unfortunately you can’t download the shows for offline listening, but they offer three players so you should be able to stream the ep (more)

New online SF magazine

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 04:02

There’s a new online science fiction magazine, Terraform, part of Vice’s Motherboard online site. They plan on publishing new short stories each week starting with stories by veterans Cory Doctorow and Bruce Sterling.  It’s a good start.


William Gibson at NYPL

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 04:54

William Gibson was in town for the Toronto Book Fair this weekend. We didn’t go – instead we went to a couple of readings (Robert J. Sawyer and Peter Watts) at SFContario – the small fan-run convention being much more to our taste. Gibson has been on a tour touting his new novel, The Peripheral, and earlier last week he was at the New York Public Library where he was interviewed by James Gleick. The talk was recorded and is now up on the NYPL web site (in both video and audio formats) (more)

Clearing conditionals out of a SmartDocs document

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 04:48

SmartDocs is a powerful Word add-in from ThirtySix Software that gives Word users many of the capabilities of FrameMaker (variables, conditional text, reusable snippets) with an interface that is much easier to use. I’ve been using it for about three years and the more I use it the more I like it. I’ve been using it to produce two different versions of our FIX protocol specification, a 300-page document full of complex tables, and SmartDocs has handled everything I’ve thrown at it with aplomb.

In SmartDocs, delet (more)

Three clever typefaces

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 04:41

It’s time for another typography post. Gizmodo has an article about three typefaces that are designed to solve specific problems.

I’ve posted about Dyslexie before - it’s designed to help dyslexics read. The other typefaces mentioned in the article are Input, a good looking monospaced font (yes, it is possible) for programmers, and Burlingame, a font designed for extreme legibilit (more)

Free readings at SFContario this weekend

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 19:04

SFContario 5 will be held in Toronto this weekend. For those of you not familiar with it or science fiction conventions, it’s a small fan-run convention focused mostly on the literary side of science fiction (though there will be filking and probably some costuming). This year, they’ve managed to get some funding from the Toronto Arts Council to put on a series of free authors’ reading during the convention. Readings will be held at Ramada Plaza Hotel, 300 Jarvis Street, in the Courtyard Room.

Among the authors reading are Karl Sc (more)

World Fantasy Awards 2014

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 04:38

The winners of the World Fantasy Awards for 2014 have been announced. The awards are voted on by members of the World Fantasy convention and a panel of judges. These are the novel and short fiction nominees and winners (in bold).


  • Richard Bowes, Dust Devil on a Quiet Street (Lethe Press)
  • Marie Brennan, A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (Tor Books)
  • Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (William Morrow/Headline)
  • Sofia Samatar, A Stranger in Olondria (Small Beer (more)

Brackets – a slick, open source web editor from Adobe

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 04:31

Adobe has just released a new, open source text editor called Brackets, aimed at web developers. It has some very slick features that will make the life of anyone who has to edit HTML, CSS, or JavaScript code much easier. For example, when you’re editing HTML code you can place your cursor in a CSS declaration and hit CTRL-E and it’ll open an edit window for that declaration. There’s a live preview that hooks into Google Chrome so you can instantly see what your code changes will look like. There are too many features to list here but some of them are detailed (more)

Our xenophobic government does it again

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 04:48

The Harper government isn’t noted for evidence-based decision making and the recent decision to institute a travel ban on countries experiencing the Ebola outbreak is a good example. Not only will be ban not work, but it could make the outbreak worse, and violates international law. But it plays well the the Conservative base, most of whom probably couldn’t find Africa on a map, much less Liberia. The Vox’s health reporter, Julia Belluz, rips the government a new one over this issue in this long, well-researched article.< (more)

SpaceShipTwo crash cause found

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 04:24

It looks like investigators have found what caused last week’s crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo – premature deployment of the feathering system intended to slow the ship down on re-entry.

However, at a press conference Sunday afternoon, acting NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said that crash investigators had already located the cause of the accident that injured 43-year old pilot Peter Siebold and took the life of 39-year old co-pilot Michael (more)

Doing the devil’s work

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 04:44

If you want a textbook example of what true evil is, you could do a lot worse than this. People like this lobbyist have sold their soul to forces that are working to ensure that the future of the human race will be, as George Orwell put it, nasty, brutish, and short. Read the full text of his speech, if you have the stomach for it – I didn’t.

I (more)

Invocation by Jo L Walton

Sun, 11/02/2014 - 10:29

I saw a post on my mobile Facebook feed about a Jo Walton novel called “Invocation” being free today, so I went to the site and bought it (maybe not the right term considering the price). I then noticed the author’s name was Jo L. Walton, who is a British poet and novelist and not the Canadian SF author with whom I’m familiar. It still sounds like a worthwhile read.

“Shortly before her (more)

Making AutoCorrect more useful in Word 2013

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 05:20

AutoCorrect is a feature in Microsoft Word that you may not even realize you’re using. If, like me, you’re a sloppy typist, AutoCorrect will fix common typos (teh for the, for example) so quickly that you may not notice you’ve made a mistake. It’s also easy to configure; at least it was in Word 2007 and 2010, where you could set it to save a correction by right-clicking on a word that Word had flagged as a spelling mistake.

For reasons unknown, Microsoft has removed that feature from Word 2013, as Jerry Pournelle laments in his (more)

Orbital Sciences launch failure

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 19:46

An Antares booster launched by Orbital Sciences Corp. suffered a catastrophic failure shortly after launch this evening, falling back to the Wallops Island launch pad and exploding. The rocket was carrying a cargo of supplies intended for the International Space Station. Initial reports were that there were no injuries, but I expect that there will be more than a little damage to the launch pad, and somewhat more to Orbital Sciences’ reputation.

The video is sho (more)

Seven Worst-Case Scenarios in the Battle with the Islamic State

Sun, 10/26/2014 - 18:29

Here’s an article that explores seven different scenarios that the battle with the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want to call it) could take. None of them are good. Several of them are backed up with quite a bit of detail.

5. Iran

What can go wrong for Iran in the current conflict? While in the Middle East something unexpected can always arise, at present that country looks like the potential big winner in the IS sweepstakes. Will a pro-I (more)

CBC does us proud

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 19:24

For most of yesterday, I listened to the CBC’s radio coverage of the shooting at Parliament. The CBC radio coverage was excellent, as is usually the case with the CBC. I didn’t see the TV coverage but it’s attracted some notice in US sites, because it was so much better than what passes for TV journalism in the US these days. Here’s an article from

For hours this afternoon, Canada’s CBC News covered the b (more)

Escape from Microsoft Word

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:01

Here’s an interesting perspective on Microsoft Word from a writer who is not a technical writer and who found himself baffled by some of Word’s formatting idiosyncrasies.  The problem he ran into would not have occurred if he had used a character style for italics instead of applying direct formatting. Of course, Microsoft continues to make it harder and more complex to use styles properly with every release of Word, so I won’t be too hard on him.

I’ve been vaguely aware of Word (more)

Life at the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 05:57

Here’s a harrowing article by an AmeriCare relief worker about what it’s like working at the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in Monrovia, Liberia.

When traveling to areas devastated by earthquakes and violent storms, the physical damage is often apparent even before you step off the plane. But here in Liberia where the death toll has surpassed 2,000 and continues to climb, there are no flattened buildings or tent camps filled with survivors. Signs of the crisis are mo (more)

Canadian geologists get climate change wrong

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 05:52

It’s likely that the post on the Geologic Society of America by a couple of Canadian geologists will likely get taken up by all the usual suspects in the climate change denial industry.  Fortunately there’s a strong rebuttal, which the deniers will likely ignore, but at least it’s out there.

This is quite false, as (more)