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My 2015 Hugo Ballot

Sat, 08/01/2015 - 08:43

The deadline for voting on the 2015 Hugo Awards has just passed. The awards will be announced at Sasquan in Spokane, WA in three weeks. It has been an unusually controversial year because of the nomination slates created by the Sad/Rabid Puppies.

I ended up pretty much following the recommendations on The Puppy-Free Hugo Award Voter’s Guide site created by Deirdre Saoirse Moen. In other words, I voted No Award in a lot of catego (more)

SpaceShip Two was due to pilot error, but …

Thu, 07/30/2015 - 05:00

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its report on the crash of SpaceShip Two and determined the proximate cause was due to the co-pilot triggering to early the spaceship’s feathering system designed to slow it down during re-entry. But there were other issues revealed in the report.

The NTSB has published the full ruling, and says that there also wasn’t enough done to either preven (more)

Where Are All the Aliens?

Tue, 07/28/2015 - 05:24

Although Hollywood would like you to think otherwise, the universe doesn’t seem to be populated with Little Green Men, or any other sort of aliens. Despite more than 50 years of searching, we’ve failed to detect any conclusive evidence of extraterrestrial civilization. This article is one of the best overviews of the situation that I’ve come across in quite a while.

So there are 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand in the world. Think about that next time you’re on the beach.

Moving forw (more)

The Five Biggest Threats to Human Existence

Mon, 07/27/2015 - 05:10

I seem to be in an apocalyptic mood recently – maybe it’s because I’m about half way though Neal Stephenson’s excellent Seveneves.  Anyway, here’s another article describing different ways that the human race could be wiped out. Oddly, it doesn’t list climate change; although that might not be a threat to the human race per se, it certainly is a threat to civilization in the long term.

In the daily hubbub of current “crises” facing humanity, we forg (more)

Some common sense on the coming ice age

Sun, 07/26/2015 - 13:38

There’s been quite a  bit of press about a recent study that predicts a “decline in solar activity” starting around 2030. Unfortunately, most of what you’ve probably read about it is wrong, as this article points out. The decline is in the number of sunspots, not solar output, and the effect on climate is likely to be small. What we have here is a giant failure to communicate.

This month there’s been a hoopla about a mini ice age, and unfortunately i (more)

28 Animes to Watch If You’ve Never Seen Anime

Sun, 07/26/2015 - 12:56

I first encountered anime back in the mid-1980s when I moved to Toronto and fell in with the local SF fan community, many of whom were big-time anime fans. At that time, about the only way you could find it was to trade video cassettes with people in Japan, who were happy to exchange cassettes full of anime for cassettes full of North American shows. Now, of course, it’s much easier to find, especially if you don’t limit yourself to the mainstream services like Netflix.

BuzzFeed has put together a list of (more)

James Hansen’s scary paper

Sat, 07/25/2015 - 08:27

So James Hansen is stirring the pot again. His latest paper suggests that even a 2C warming may cause much higher sea level rise than predicted by the IPCC. This is not good news for anyone, especially those living in coastal regions. The Washington Post article has a link to the full paper, if you want to read it.

It has been (more)

What’s wrong with San Francisco?

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 18:19

I’ve always had a soft spot for San Francisco – the city that generated much of the music that I grew up with. I’ve only been able to visit there once, and enjoyed seeing the city that I’d only read about. But the city is changing, and not for the better, as this article points out.

I moved to San Francisco for its radical politics. Lots of people did, for generations. Maybe it was like moving to Los Angeles if you wanted to be a movie star: If you wanted to be p (more)

Probable cause for SpaceX launch failure found

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 18:00

In a press conference today, Elon Musk announced that the probable cause of last month’s SpaceX launch failure was a 2-foot long metal strut holding a pressurized helium tank. The failure of the strut would have caused the helium tank to rupture the second stage oxygen tank, dooming the flight. Musk espects that flights should resume in a few months.

Musk pointed out that it’s the first rocket failure in seven years for his com (more)

Butterick’s Practical Typography

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 09:35

Back in 2010, I posted about Matthew Butterick’s Typography for Lawyers site, which is also available as a book in various formats. He’s since updated his website, which is now called Butterick’s Practical Typography, and is one of the best resources about typography that I’ve found.


More free live Phish

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 11:31

Now that the Grateful Dead have hung up their instruments for the last time, Phish are the jam band to follow. In honour of their upcoming summer tour, they’ve released Live Bait 11, a collection of soundboard recordings from shows from 1991 to 2012. The download is free but you have to register on the Live Downloads site.

The countdown to Phish’s 2015 Summer Tour is underway. July 21st is just around the corner, so what better way to celebrate past Phish performances than (more)

How to create a Word 2013 template from scratch

Wed, 07/15/2015 - 08:21

At work, we’ve just gone through  an upgrade to our PCs and software – not a trivial task when there are more than 1,000 users. Now everyone is using Microsoft Office 2013. This will make my life easier, because over the years, upgrades to Office software have been done piece meal with the result that we’ve had to deal with documents from four different versions of Office. This has made it difficult to update templates, some of which are a decade old. And it’s created extra work for me, when people ask me to fix their formatting problems (although it’s good to have (more)

Download over 240 free Microsoft ebooks

Mon, 07/13/2015 - 13:43

You can download a pile of Microsoft ebooks for free from their MSDN blog. These are mostly technical books focused on narrow areas and cover a wide range of MS products, from keyboard shortcuts for Office products, to a deep dive into the Microsoft licensing software. Unfortunately, you can’t e (more)

New Horizons’ Apollo 13 moment

Fri, 07/10/2015 - 17:03

You may have heard about the problem that the New Horizons encountered last week, just a few days before its encounter with Pluto. A computer glitch put the probe into safe mode, halting all scientific observations. The Wall Street Journal has the most detailed article I’ve seen yet on what happened and how the operations team go (more)

Live Dead in Chicago

Sat, 07/04/2015 - 19:24
This article pretty much nails it about last night’s Grateful Dead show: “The consensus around the Santa Clara shows was that they were skillful, soulful and perhaps a little bit slow. But Friday night’s first act at Soldier Field was a strong signal that the Grateful Dead still has plenty of rude, mule-kicking rock ‘n’ roll in it — and can still rip holes in space-time fabric long enough for Deadheads to get a peek through the cosmos (more)

2015 Locus Awards

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 05:57

The winners of the 2015 Locus Awards have been announced. The Best Novel award for SF went to Ann Leckie for Ancillary Sward and the Best Novel award for fantasy went to Katherine Addison for The Goblin Emperor. Both of these are also Hugo nominees. These are the novel nominees and winners.


A slight hiatus

Wed, 06/17/2015 - 18:43

Yes, I’m still here. Just busy. Nothing bad, but I just don’t have the cycles to devote to this blog right now. Expect few, if any, posts until the end of the month.


Running DOS word processors under Windows

Thu, 06/11/2015 - 05:51

If you’re of a certain age, your first word processor may have been WordStar, Microsoft Word, or WordPerfect running under DOS. While these programs lack the bells and whistles of modern word processors like Microsoft Word, they have a lot fewer distractions and are perfectly adequate for writing fiction. SF author Robert J. Sawyer still uses   WordStar to write his books (he just finished his 23rd novel), and has updated his instructions for running WordStar under current versions of Windows. You ahould be able easily adapt the instruct (more)

Is the Harper government the worst ever

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 05:32

If you ask me, I would have to say that the Harper government is the worst in Canadian history. I’m not the only one who thinks so – for evidence see this two-part article by Bruce Livesey.

In fact, unlike his predecessors, Harper has seemed Teflon-like in respect to how corruption scandals have clung to him. Even the trial of Senator Mike Duffy has not dented his veneer to any great extent – although this may soon change.

Yet corruption is among the lita (more)

Stream new Richard Thompson album

Tue, 06/09/2015 - 05:35

Richard Thompson has a new album, Still, coming out soon and NPR is streaming it for the next couple of weeks. The album was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and if the couple of tracks I’ve heard so far are any indication, it should be a great followup to his last album, Electric.