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Bone-eating Snot Flower December 28, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, education, history, ideas, science, writing.
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Isn’t that the greatest title, ever? I came across this as I was surfing and thought it made an eye-catching (so to speak) lead into weird news and the like. Bone-eating snot flower. Sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

This is up there with the corpse flower. See the time lapse below. No Smell-o-Vision included. Thankfully. (And no, I realize this Smell-o-Vision predates it.

A moment of silence, please. Cheetah the chimp from the Tarzan movies has died at the age of 80.

Now, in tribute please fling some feces (your own or others).

Or howabout the croc named Elvis that ate the lawn mower? Utterly crazy is the bloke who retrieved the mower (and 2 of the croc’s teeth).

Starlings show why we are susceptible to advertising.

Local news story that is outrageous. A guy in a mask and Santa hat tried to kill his brother-in-law with a crossbow. And in a separate case, a woman ran her bf through with a sword.

And still people wonder where those ideas come from.

New Mexico? Where is that? December 17, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, ghost towns, gummint, history, ideas, movies, music, New Mexico, Wild West, writing.
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Back in the day I used to sell as a sideline gag “visas” to New Mexico and touristy junk like that. I vaguely remember a booklet telling tourists US postage stamps were good here, passports weren’t needed and other obvious things that the rest of the USA simply didn’t know. Jan 6 the state is 100 years in the union. Most citizens of these great states still have no idea. It wasn’t until the most recent set of license plates that USA was dropped to keep cops in other states from thinking New Mexico meant “Frontera.” (The ultimate tourist story is the one where a woman asked at the Balloon Fiesta is she had to be a Catholic to go to the mass acension.)

The state image is in the pits. Nobody wants to vacation here because they don’t think there’s anything here. Fair enough. Tourism Dept has a lot of work to do with not much money. But I recently received a link to another blog that got me thinking. The idea of sf writers portrayed on the Simpsons is cute, but the blog itself is for an online college.

NM needs name recognition as a state with things to see and do. What are our resources? A lot of scenery. A lot of world class writers and artists and, I suspect, film makers.

But….but…but playing on the idea that people want to learn, especially to write (disclaimer: I am an instructor for Long Ridge and have been for four years), why not have a series of seminars, lectures, writing clinics at appropriate places with big name instructors? SF would obviously tie into Los Alamos or, shudder, Roswell. What’s the most romantic spot in the state–for a romance writing conference? Westerns? Lincoln County to tie in with Billy the Kid and the LC War. But there are buffalo soldiers and Indian War and even that most maligned, the Trans-Mississippi Civil War. Spanish exploration? Pueblo revolt? Spots all over the state would be fine for such writing classes. We’ve got top of the line western authorities here. Paul Hutton, Don Bullis (the official NM Centennial historian), Johnny Boggs, Melody Groves–I could go on but the list is long. The WWA 2012 conference is in Albuquerque but this is limited to WWA members who go to lots of places for the convention, not necessarily for the place itself..

Mysteries? We’ve got mystery writers galore here. Thrillers? David Morrel and others.

If the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium draws 30k or so, finding 50 people interested in Billy the Kid (who aren’t from either NM or Texas) shouldn’t be impossible.

The biggest problem is transport since Abq is the only air terminus for the rest of the US to get here. State tourism would do well to promote genre writing clinics in various parts of the state–writers tend to write. A lot. But movie making clinics would draw bigtime from California. Maybe the state tourism dept could subsidize the transportation (an obvious gimmick is to “charge” $1000 for the actual seminar but discount it for people from, pick your target region, to only $250. And that $250 covers the actual costs so the state money would only go for transportation–what kind of a deal can the state make with airlines?)

Would budding artists pay to do landscapes in a weeklong seminar with masters? They’d be using NM’s actual scenery for subject matter. They go home, they display their work or do more…of NM. Photography, the same thing. Music? The idea is to get small groups coming here that will leave and carry with them pictures/words/movies of New Mexico that might slowly educate the geographically ignorant in the rest of the country that we have immense beauty and talent here.

Two obvious resources NM has are scenic beauty and a pool of artistic talent. None of this will happen (listen to indie film makers about how the NM Film Commission works sometime) but it is an interesting gedanken experiment. For me, at least.

Single Action Shooters Society End of Trail June 2010

A Brand New Ghost Town December 16, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, ghost towns, gummint, history, New Mexico, writing.
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Yes, bids have gone out to build a brand spanking new ghost town in New Mexico.

The idea is pretty innovative. Build an entire town that would normally house 35,000 residents but use it as a test bed for all kinds of 21st century technology. Intelligent traffic systems (a stunningly new idea for NMexico drivers), smart grid uses (for security–gotta wonder if they will also build in electronic glide paths for the police Predator drones) and one that ought to be there and probably won’t, modular reactors.

Bill Gates can go to China to pitch travelling wave reactors but can’t seem to do that inside the US. A pity. The NM newly built ghost town can be a wonderful place to test out such technology. After all, the town is likely to be built within an hour’s drive of the Stallion Gate and Trinity Site. (I suspect optimal location is near Socorro and NM Tech–Tech already runs a ghost town of its own down in the Bootheel used for blowing up things and training urban assault SWAT teams).

Other possibles for reactor testing, though ones like the CANDU hardly require it, are certainly out there. What better place to test EMP reactions than an entire test city?

Maybe this is the reason behind China’s Ordos? Naw, that was a failure of central planning.

There is so much NM can do to bring in the bucks using what resources we are allowed to develop. More on some random ideas about using writers in the same way Walter Jon Williams runs his Taos writers’ workshop.

I leave you with this tidbit. The name they have chosen for the town? The Center. I’d rather they had gone with The Village, but that’s just me.

The not-quite Green Dome

Extrapolation December 14, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in history, ideas, writing.
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“It does not pay a prophet to be too specific.” That’s what L Sprague DeCamp said and it ought to be taken to heart by sf writers dealing with the future (or near future especially). I don’t know this for certain but have been told Jules Verne did not say the Nautilus was nuclear powered but rather run by the same power that the Sun uses. Vagueness (and maybe lousy translation done after the physics revolution of the early 1900s) made that “prediction” a winner.

So what’s the Middle East going to look like now that we’ve pulled out of Iraq? I think Israel has less to worry about right away than Saudi Arabia. The real fight will be between the Shia and the Sunni. Iraq was a buffer and protected the Saudi border. No longer now that we’re outta there. Yemen is in turmoil, thanks to Shia rebels. Syria continues to crush its revolt (likely Sunnis) with Iranian support. If Iran positions itself as the Middle Eastern power via the bomb and ICBMs, their first move will be into Iraq to isolate the Saudis along that border. The Emirates will come under great pressure to throw out the Sunnis and adopt the Shia leadership from Iran.

The choke points to watch are the Straits of Hormuz and the Gate of Tears. This will control 80% of the oil shipped out of the Middle East. It’ll be more “Arab Spring” especially in Yemen to gain control of the Gate of Tears.

Too bad we have abandoned nuclear power and told Canada to ship their oil to China.

There you are, gang. A scenario for a high tech/international thriller. Pretty general. Go for it.

Bizarro as prophet

Outlaw to Hero December 11, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, history, New Mexico, outlaws, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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PBS on its American Experience series, is doing a documentary on Billy the Kid. From the link it appears the take is that he was some kind of Robin Hood character. I suppose this is true in the sense that he robbed from the rich because the poor didn’t have anything worth stealing. I’m not sure what the fascination with vicious murderers and criminals is, especially if they come to a violent end.

Dillinger is another case in point. “I wasn’t such a bad guy as some people said…” I suspect the only reason he wasn’t convicted of killing a police officer was that he tried to shoot it out with the FBI. Or maybe robbing banks during the Depression was a good thing? Real Robin Hood stuff. At least nine movies have been made about him (and for Billy? More than 15.) [How many about Alexander Fleming? Uh, don’t know. Jonas Salk? A couple? It is obviously easier to be known as a killer and bank robber and horse thief than for saving untold millions.]

One of my favorite Charles Bronson movies is From Noon til Three. Part of the attraction for me is how the insignificant can be blown up into legend, how petty crimes become marvelous deeds–through the power of advertising and PR. The rest of the attraction is how much fun the movie is.

Readers/viewers want a look at something other than what they have in their own lives, so it is obvious criminals fits that bill. But why morph the psychotic killer into something lovable? You got me on that.

Dillinger death photo

Day of Infamy, Day of Remembrance December 7, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in history, nostalgia.
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This is the last year the Pearl Harbor survivors in Albuquerque will meet. 70 years has seen great attrition of numbers and those left are infirm and mostly unable to convene. How long will it be until PHD is entirely forgotten? In ten years it’ll be, huh? The number right now, in spite of our forever wars, is that less than 1% of the population has served in the military. The exact number of WWII vets dying will soon decelerate since there will be ever fewer left. And there won’t be vets to carry on those traditions.

My dad had been in the Navy 4 years on PHD and was stationed on an air scout as a radioman out of Pensacola. He never talked much about the war (like 2 of my other uncles who served in WWII–the third was too young. He became a Cold War spook and worked for the CIA and sadly was the first of my uncles to die) One thing my dad did mention once was being shot at by German subs surfacing just off the coast of Florida. His plane wasn’t armed so it got dicey most of the time, I suppose. And this was before war was declared.

During the war, he was stationed in the Aleutians on a picket ship (don’t know the name–but he was at Kiska, Attu and other spots, so the picture below is likely one he at least was familiar with). His ship was the only one with radar since he waded out into very icy water to rescue a radar unit off a sunken destroyer. He received a medical discharge at Treasure Island, lived in San Francisco for a while, then after the war started an electronics/radio repair shop with his next younger brother in Texas. While he never officially saw combat, he saw a bit of the aftermath (and, apparently not too odd for a sailor, he got violently seasick in heavy seas).

It’s been 20 yrs since he died. He would have been 91 this year. Every now and then something pops up, like an iPad or a cellphone or nifty digital camera or computer or satellite radio, and I find myself thinking, “Dad would get a kick out of this.” And he would have. He died just before the Internet became a part of our lives, and I can’t help but wonder where that would have taken him.

USS Rhodes picket ship at Attu and Kiska

Old Towns and Research November 2, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, education, geocaching, ghost towns, history, hobby, ideas, music, New Mexico, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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After leaving LA, I dropped down to San Diego, mastered the (easy) trolley system and zinged down to their version of Old Town. Relatively recent compared with Santa Fe or even Old Town in Albuquerque (California’s was settled some 60 years later) But this is the first European settlement in California so was fodder for the western fiction research mill.

But I am on a different time zone so got to OT a couple hours before it opened. I took the $10 plunge and had installed the android geocaching app on my cell phone. The 2 hours gave me a chance to try it out. I found 3 caches, one in Presidio Park, another on 1769 Hill and yet one more virtual cache showing how metal rusts in salt air. By the time I had wandered around, it was opening time for the museums.

Life is tough all over. I had breakfast at a restaurant that boasted that it had been established in 2010. In today’s economy that might be long-lived. From here hiked up the hill to the Mormon Battalion Museum. Very slick, very cute girls in period costumes, interesting high tech video presentations, had the chance for some hands on examination of props since I was the only one in the “group” (not peak tourist season, I’d say), got a couple teeny gold nuggets, and was surprised when I asked about music of the era and one guide disappeared and came back later with a handwritten list taken from a contemporaneous journal. Very kind of her to supply this and info will certainly be used (but I’m not likely to order a free copy of Book of Mormon or send one to a friend). The Mormon Battalion has a monument between Abq and Santa Fe (and a geocache, btw) and it was good seeing the end of the 2000 mi trail in San Diego. Not sure I buy all the achievements of the Battalion but they might be true. Will look to see if they actually started the first newspaper in Northern California (California Star–ok, looks factual since Alta California grew out of CStar–founder Samuel Brannan was the first Gold Rush millionaire, but some conflation is going on. Brannan wasn’t part of the Mormon Battalion, coming around the Horn in 1846. And, hmm, this might be the second trailing The Californian from Monterey) or were responsible for first finding gold at Sutter’s Mill (but I certainly think they worked to build it so might well be true). All a bit before the time period considered the Wild West but great background.

On to Whaley House, supposedly the “most haunted” house in California or the US or somewhere. The best that could be conjured was it was built on an Indian burial ground. NM is built on an Indian burial ground, fer Pete’s sake. Nancy Holder later said it was the site of public executions. So why didn’t the period-dressed guide say this? Mostly like restored houses elsewhere in the West, but renewed my interest in writing a western that simply has no mass market. Ah, VIPub. When I get time. Mike Resnick ought to be proud–he had a lot of copies of The Buntline Special on the museum bookstore shelf.

To the World Fantasy Convention itself soon and the VIPub vibe building like a tidal wave there.

Mormon Batallion Museum

Ready For My UFO Ride October 23, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, gummint, history, ideas, inventions, New Mexico, science, space, UFOs.
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Living in NM it is impossible to escape the Roswell Incident. I’ve even written a couple stories explaining alien abductions and those anal probes. An entrepreneur is gearing up to offer flying saucer rides at Spaceport America.

Alas, in spite of being able to fly 75mph with a ceiling of 2000 ft, the actual ride would be like a Disneyland simulation at 10 ft and 35mph. Still, this is mighty cool and while it isn’t suborbital, the ticket price has to be less than $200k. What would you pay to buzz around in a hover craft on a preset course you couldn’t control?

An interesting development seems to be the possibility of launching small satellites from the Virgin Galactic White Knight. Only 17 pounds or so but Vanguard 1 weighed only 3 lbs and we’ve got 50 years of miniaturization behind us. So more payloads than space tourists are planned. Launch your own satellite for $200k? Beats going to the ESA (the first Soyuz will launch Thursday out of Guiana with 2 satellites, payload 3.2 tons). The downside is that Congress needs to free our commercial ventures from the onerous burdens they have spent decades putting on NASA and unless they do, commercial use & travel is going the same way as the space shuttle. While I am cautiously hopeful, bureaucrats are worse than cockroaches and as hard to exterminate. Maybe Sinnamary has room for other commercial vehicles (once intended for launching in the US)?

Here’s our answer to the greys!

Mooning October 19, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, gummint, history, ideas, inventions, science, space.
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Ken sent along an article on mining the moon (he being a mining engineer type of guy–seems odd, he deals in rare earths but the Moon has the more common stuff. Unless there is…lunite!)

The article says Naveen Jain wants to mine for platinum and titanium. Seems to me these are heavy to ship back as ore so on site smelting would be needed. Solar power could actually be useful. I’m not sure how a zone furnace would do, but I suspect well (you can look up Bill Pfann and his zone melting–circa 1951 or so–for a neat little device. I think this has been used to a small extent on the lamented space shuttle missions.) Might not even need to put the lump of Pt into a ship and bring back. Set up a rail gun and zing it back to Earth orbit where it could be picked up.

And then there is the He-3 there which might be quite useful

The prospect of turning the Moon into a giant billboard exists, too. A huge “card section” like at football games (or the Olympics opening ceremonies) could change the message according to sponsor. What would it cost to advertise worldwide, say, Coca-Cola or Tampax? It might be possible, if the array was large enough, to turn it into a drive-in movie with short videos, and who’d notice the 1.5 sec lag time?. Who needs Youtube if you have the Moon?

I see stuff like this and think Heinlein was righter than I ever thought he would be. Nobody in the ‘40s thought it would be a gummint project getting to the Moon. And once the gummint showed no resolve about staying there, who woulda thunk it would be private business wanting to actually use it? (I will a book for and dedicate it to anyone defacing the plaque left on the Moon–pry loose Richard Nixon’s name and leave the rest).

This Lio cartoon doesn’t have anything to do with the blog but I thought it was cute (and cautionary).

http://wpcomics.washingtonpost.com/client/wpc/lio/

(Social) Maps of Mars October 15, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in history, inventions, science, science fiction, sense of wonder.
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I missed Bubonicon 43 and what, by accounts, was a most excellent presentation by Dr Maria Lane, author of The Geographies of Mars: Seeing and Knowing the Red Planet.

Geographies of Mars: K. Maria D. Lane

She is a geographer (specializing in water rights) but wrote this book to analyze more the progression of social imagining of Mars. And she did a reprise of the talk since so many others missed it.

Schiaprelli it turns out was color blind, so the blue areas on his maps of Mars didn’t mean a lot. Certainly not that he thought there was so much ocean there. The progression of opinion was cemented by Percival Lowell and his elaborate description of how the canals changed over the seasons, water having, simply *having* to flow from the poles to the agricultural areas. Most intriguing was how Lane tied in British imperialism with the notion that the Martians had to be superior beings. Their world was dying, so they had accelerated intellect to fight the “desertism.”

And still more intriguing was how Lowell bypassed the peer reviewed journals and went straight to venues like The Atlantic and Cosmopolitan (not the same as today’s. The idea of those Martians working so diligently to save themselves from drought caught the imagination, both in Britain and the US. But the different interpretations were noteworthy. The Brits saw it as vindication for imperialism and the US for individual exceptionalism. One thing that entered my pea brain was that HG Wells, anti-imperialist, saw the War of the Worlds as an allegory of how the British Empire died from within.

All of Lowell’s maps of the canals were composites, no one ever seeing more than 3 lines at a time. By 1909 photographs and 40″ telescopes showed the lines were optical illusions or “seeing” problems.

Also in the news is the Mars endurance test is about to end, purporting to show cosmonauts could make the trip to mars.

I leave you with today’s Bizarro

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