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Updated: 2 hours 8 min ago

Some free Neil Gaiman stories

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 05:28

By now you’d probably have to be living under a rock not to know who Neil Gaiman is. At this point, he’s probably the most popular SF author of his generation, in the same league as George R. R. Martin and Stephen King, but they’re both older.  Over the years, Gaiman has made quite a bit of his work freely available and OpenCulture has collected much of it on this page. If you’re not a fan, check it out – I suspect you’ll be one after you read a couple of his stories.(more)

SpaceX landing attempt video

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 19:06

Here’s the hi-res video of the SpaceX landing attempt. They came SO close – it looked like they were right on top of the barge coming down, veered sideways, corrected and toppled because there was still some sideways motion. And if that video is slow motion, they came in a lot faster than I expected.


Demolishing climate change deniers

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 18:41

I’ve been a fan of SF author David Brin for a long time, ever since his first novel Sundiver came out back in the 1980s. He hasn’t been writing a lot of fiction these days, but his blog, Contrary Brin, is always worth reading, and this post more so than most. He starts out by taking a strip off anti-vaxxers, and once he gets warmed up, goes after climate change deniers. He’s a joy to read.

cean acidification, Ocean acidification, Oc (more)

More on the Hugo nominations

Sat, 04/11/2015 - 20:01

As I noted last week, the finalists for the 2015 Hugo Awards have been announced and a firestorm of controversy has erupted. Some background here on the Black Gate blog and from George R. R. Martin, who has weighed in with a series of posts.

I have been an SF reader since I was 10 or thereabouts (since a school li (more)

A download treat for Doctor Who fans

Sat, 04/11/2015 - 17:33

Here’s some big news for all you Doctor Who fans out there. The BBC has released a Best Of Doctor Who set of 10 episodes with a bunch of extras that you can download via BitTorrent for the very reasonable cost of $12. I’ve probably got all of the episodes squirreled away somewhere, but I might grab it anyway, as these are some of the best of the last decade and it’s worth it for the extras.


Canada and the Middle East

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 19:30

From author and flu blogger, Crawford Killian, a wise article about the Middle East conflicts and Canada’s role in them.

The Islamic State is just one among several radical movements in the Muslim world, and they are pulling us into their violence in countries far from Iraq: from northern Nigeria to the foothills of Pakistan’s Himalayas.

In the process, we are blundering into the killing of polio vaccination teams in (more)

Another lost typeface resurected

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 05:31

Type foundry Monotype has resurrected a typeface called Unica that was originally developed in the 1970s and then lost for 40 years. The typeface is a sans serif face with features of both Helvetica and Univers. It’s a fascinating story.

They found them in a file cabinet. The original masters for a legendary typeface called Haas Unica, designed in the late 1970s and killed shortly thereafter by what amounts to bad luck—and the digital age.

The person who found them was (more)

Why loudness sucks

Mon, 04/06/2015 - 18:47

It’s well known that loud music tends to sound better – at least on first listen. In the days of vinyl, music producers have always tried to push the limit of what volume they could get out of a groove – to the point where a record could be unplayable on certain equipment. Now, since it’s all digital, they just compress the heck out of the music and then boost levels. It sounds loud, but it destroys any dynamic range that might have been in the original music.

On Gizmodo, Mario Aguilar looks at what (more)

Interview with William Gibson

Mon, 04/06/2015 - 09:03

IDEAS.TED.COM interviews William Gibson, whose latest novel, The Peripheral, is the book that should win this year’s Hugo award (sadly, it didn’t make the short list). It’s not a long interview but is worth reading, especially if you’re an aspiring writer.

When I wrote Neuromancer, any scenario that wasn’t nuclear Armageddon was inherently optimistic. It was an act of optimism in the early 80s to set us up in a future science fiction story in a world in which there hadn’ (more)

2015 Hugo Award Finalists

Sun, 04/05/2015 - 09:40

The finalists for the 2015 Hugo and John W. Campbell awards have been announced. The awards are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention, which this year is Sasquan to be held in Spokane, Washington, August 19-23, 2015. These are the finalists for the Best Novel award:

The Hobby Lobby Court Decision Comes Home to Roost

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 18:24

As this article points out, the insane Hobby Lobby decision by the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for Indiana’s “Freedom to Discriminate Against LBGTQ People” law. That’s one company that I will never patronize – not that we are likely to see them in Canada and that’s just as well.

Maybe the uproar over the Indiana law just means that people are finally starting to get why Hobby Lobby will go down as one of the most bigoted decisions in t (more)

The Right’s Made-Up God

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 05:24

There’s been a lot of controversy about the “religious freedom” act recently passed and signed into law in Indiana. This article from Salon is about the best one that I’ve seen.

I often ask myself whether I really do worship the same God of white religious conservatives. On this Holy Week, when I reflect on the Christian story of Christ crucified, it is a story to me of a man who came, radically served his community, challenged the unjust show (more)

Ontario Government Helping to Promote Quackery

Wed, 04/01/2015 - 04:04

I was rather upset to read in the Globe and Mail that the Ontario government is helping homeopaths to self-regulate, thus promoting utter quackery. As if it isn’t hard enough to distinguish effective medicine from ineffective, allowing any form of homeopathy is sheer stupidity. Shame on them.

Similarly, Ontario has allowed homeopaths to draw up standards of practice and self-regulate like every other health profession – physicians, nurses, pharmacists, ch (more)

Markdown versus DITA

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 05:37

Tom Johnson has another very interesting post about authoring techniques and technologies – this one comparing authoring using Markdown in Jekyll versus authoring in DITA in OxygenXML. I’m only vaguely familiar with Markdown, but will probably start using it more once I upgrade this blog to a more current version of WordPress. I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of using DITA at work because it seems too complex and difficult to implement in my curr (more)

Rave of Thrones

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 05:18

I didn’t know that Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor in Game of Thrones, is a DJ and a damned good one. He did a set at a party a couple of days after the 5th season premier in San Francisco, reviewed by Wired. The article has links to several of his mixes if you want to check them out. I like them, though my tastes run more to the ambient side of electronica.

Nairn himself is incredibly imposing. At just under seven feet tall, he doesn’t really need a stage or a DJ booth to tower over everyone, but there he wa (more)

Download the SXSW 100

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 13:42

South by Southwest or SXSW was held in Austin a couple of weeks ago. Even the mayor of Toronto went. NPR was there and the hosts of All Songs Considered have put together a play list of 100 songs from some of the performers. You can stream the songs or download the whole thing as a .zip file until April 2.

There’s a lot of music on this page — 100 songs, to be exact, each from an artist worth discovering at this year’s SXSW Music Festival. It’s more than six genre-defying hours (more)

Checking some credentials

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 18:46

So, you see a science story on FOX News and another on PBS. Which one should you trust. Compare the credentials of their reporters. Here’s a sample from the article.


  • Joe Palca, who worked as an editor for Nature, a senior correspondent for Science Magazine, and a science writer in residence at the Huntington Library, and has won the National Academies Communications Award, the Science-in-Society Award of the National Ass (more)

How Long Does Food Last?

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 19:10

A lot of food gets wasted unnecessarily because the best before dates on packages are usually very conservative. Here’s a site that will tell you how long you can safely use almost any food. The information includes whether the packaging has been opened or not and whether the food has been kept refrigerated or frozen.

We are a group of contributors from the kitchen and classroom communities who set out to answer the question, “How long does food really last?”. From the best ingredients to the ordinary, we provide you with a diverse (more)

The 12 Ultimate Tips for Composition in Art

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 05:50

In photography, one of the things that separates great photographers from the merely good is their eye for composition. It’s something that you know when you see it, even if you can’t explain what makes it work. Some people have a natural talent for composition, others have to learn it. There are guidelines and tips that you can follow that will help to improve the composition of your photos (or your art, if you are an artist). I’ve seen many articles about composition and The 12 ultim (more)

The Transformation of American Society

Sun, 03/22/2015 - 10:45

In 5 Powerful Shifts Transforming American Society into an Unrecognizable and Frightening Future, Tom Engelhardt points out five trends that are transforming American society into something that’s really unrecognizable to someone who grew up in the 1950s and 60s. The changes are profound and the article does a good job of explaining both their causes and their results. And our Fearless Leader in Ottawa seems to be pushing Canada he (more)