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Gangrene Sunday November 27, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, Free, gummint, ideas, iPad, iPhone, steampunk, westerns, writing.
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Well, why not? We have Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I am officially appalled at the goings-on to get a bargain. Fisticuffs over a $2 waffle iron? A shopper pepper spraying others so she could get a better shot at the goodies? (Pepper spray is now officially a vegetable–look it up on the gummint’s new food pyramid). Camping out for days prior seems so meek and mild now. I’m afraid I don’t need that 51″ plasma TV that badly. Or at all, if truth be known (more and more I’m finding the iPad works just fine for me–and no, I wouldn’t bayonet another shopper to get a new iPad2 0.8 microseconds sooner. Maybe 0.5 microseconds…no, not even then.

This is the year the ereader has come into its own. With the Kindle Fire and the Nook tablet out there now, ereading is going to maybe double in the coming year (my guesstimate. Like all economic forecasts these days, the actual number will be “unexpected.”) For us VIPubbers, tis the season to plot and plan and market like fiends.

Luckily we don’t have to do it in the midst of bargain-crazed TV buyers. Some goodies you can get for free right now:

Michael Stackpole’s At the Queen’s Command on the Kindle. Yes, free, for a while longer.

steampunk screensavers or whatever they call them for the Kindle (free)
Some nifty free steampunk stories here, too.

the 40 best Android apps (for free)

Of course, you should check out my online Cenotaph Road Store for free stories like “Me and Mr. Jones”

100 Kindle ebooks for $3.99 or less

And you simply *cannot* pass up this collection, The Traditional West, at $3.99 for a limited time. Over 100k words of traditional western stories. Imagine that.

Isn’t shopping this way better than getting poked in the eye or trampled?

Traditional West by Western Fictioneers

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Prelude to.. November 1, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, gummint, movies, science fiction, sense of wonder, VIPub, writing.
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…research and business.

I just returned from an incredible trip to the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego. I’ll get into the business aspects of that in a day or two, especially dealing with e-publishing, VIPub and new projects that really excite me (yes, I am an excitable boy…)

I left Albq for LA to visit my son, who has become a true Angeleno maneuvering the freeways with aplomb. We hit a lot of sights, including Griffith Planetarium at night but the science fictional ones were 1) revelatory and 2) disappointing. #2 was supposed to be lunch at Clifton Cafeteria where LASFS met.

The cafeteria was closed for this week for some reason. And the Museum of Jurassic Technology was closed. But the one spot I wanted to see especially was open, probably because the LAPD Internal Affairs division is headquartered here.

The Bradbury Building has been features as a backdrop for a lot of movies, especially my favorite sf movie, Blade Runner. One factoid I had not know: the building was inspired by Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward. The interior has a bronze of Charlie Chaplin sitting on a bench, open grille elevators (two, each with an elevator starter–not that’s retro!) While going above the first landing is frowned upon–and considering the occupants of the upper floors, understandable–some nice shots were taken of the place. One is below.

A shock came with a touch of movie magic. Directly across the street is the movie theater shown in Blade Runner. But it does not face an alley. It faces the front door of the Bradbury. Alley composited in most realistically.

Great inspiration to be found here (and in the Goodyear blimp overhead, as well as the funicular and the plane circling over the courthouse with a banner letting the world know that Michael Jackson’s doctor should have been tried on murder charges)

To WFC tomorrow.

Bradbury Bldg interior lobby

Ready to be Groped October 24, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, conventions, gummint, iPad, iPhone.
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Enter info, wait wait wait atomic clock says it’s time! Hit that enter key! Got it! Have my boarding pass for the trip to WFC. Alas, having to take so much in the way of clothing (it’s cold in San Diego, isn’t it?) I need to take a big suitcase, one with heavy duty wheels, power lift and 300 hp motor. I don’t know about the transmission.

Getting my electronics prepped for the flight. iPad, cell phone, camera. Have a sheaf of paper including the boarding pass and itinerary. Steeling myself to have my groin groped. A new app on my phone might be useful,. Gate Guru shows airport layouts, gives anecdotal times to get through security, where the best burrito parlors are. Will see how it works for me.

So, off on a grand adventure tomorrow. Until then, help me pay for it. Hot Rail to Hell is available in all kinds of places.

Kindle, Nook, my online bookstore, or iTunes store.

nifty espionage book!

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/

And a Bottle of Champagne October 18, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, ghost towns, gummint, ideas, New Mexico, science, space, Wild West.
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…was opened as Richard Branson rapelled down the glass front of the newly christened Spaceport America. With luck flights ought to be UUUUP there next summer.

I heard an interesting promotion on the radio the other night. Japan is sinking $10m into airline tickets to get people to Japan. Just the airfare. And the winners have to blog or twit or whatever about their experience. This is clever because it gives a lot of worldwide publicity (you can bet the Japanese tourist agency will pick up on every line and push it to an even bigger audience) and brings money into the country. You gotta eat and stay somewhere and travel around once you get into Japan. Who wouldn’t want to return with souvenirs? This looks like a great twofer– publicity and guaranteed money spent in country. Tickets are likely in the $1500 range. That much or more would be spent in country.

I wonder if something similar can’t be done in NM. Though we really have only one airport in the state (Albuquerque Sunport) it might work better than other promos. I haven’t heard how the “find Billy the Kid” hunt is coming. Or if it is. An outlaws of the American West might be an interesting promotion overseas. One denizen of Western Fictioneers said that a Japanese friend coming to Abq for the WWA conference next June wanted to find other black powder enthusiasts.

Throw in the lure of a lottery along with the plane ticket–a lottery for a trip to the edge of space. These are nickel and dime expenses for a state’s tourism budget, even NM. But, of course, money will be spent not building businesses or attracting tourists but in lining political pockets as has been done far longer than our 100 yrs as state and territory.

But the Japanese have a nifty idea. How can that be used to promote ghost towns, Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands and Spaceport America and our outlaw heritage?

Ponderosa-ty October 9, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, gummint, history, New Mexico, nostalgia, weather.
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The morning paper had a front page (with a significant jump) article on how the Las Conchas fire west of Los Alamos has destroyed not only hundreds of square miles of forest but also the ponderosa pine. More than thirty years ago the same area had a massive fire but the ponderosas escaped the worst of that one. Not so this time. From the article, there is no chance for the ponderosa to grow back.

Replacing it will be the oak tree, a scrubby replacement for the soaring pine. And shrubbery, undoubtedly the product of Roger the Shrubber. I won’t live to see the ponderosa grow to any significant height, even if it weren’t extinct in this region, but it is a shame that no one will, either.

Poor forest upkeep (or rather that dictated by law, which is the same thing) kept the fire burning, fed by undergrowth that had never been cleared and the lack of roads and firebreaks. The fire was something that undoubtedly occurred many times in the past and is something we have to expect if we fail to maintain the forests (which is unnatural). So the decision was made: let it be destroyed naturally or be preserved unnaturally.

I wish it were still there.

The ponderosa farther north is crowding out another lovely tree, the aspen. There is nothing quite so lovely as the quaking aspen in autumn, its leaves looking like a turbulent sea of gold and silver in even the lightest breeze.

I didn’t catch all the thought-provoking Life After People. I wonder if they dealt with the effect of massive forest fires on the wildlife. Probably. And it was probably a good show. What will the vegetation look like in 100, 500, 1000 years?

The rain Friday night turned to snow, some of which still remains above the 10k ft level on the mountains to the east. It is cold and I need soup for lunch.

The Need to Control September 16, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, gummint, VIPub, writing.
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It can’t happen here. Of course not. But we ought to make a careful look around to see what is happening elsewhere. Australia seems a nice place, net of Mad Max and the outback and abos mistreatment, the Sydney Opera House and Tasmanian devils and other weirdly wonderful otherworldly creatures.

But they have a species like we do: bureaucrats. These bureaucrats are trying to license newspapers and, in effect, publishing.

Newspapers don’t carry a sales tax in the U S because they are a protected right under the Constitution. But face it, epublishing is driving them out of business here and around the world. That means nobody will much care if the print versions must be under direct government control. Oh, wait, newspapers are going online. So *that* has to be regulated, too.

And if newspapers can be, why not anything going out on the Internet? Baby steps, but control is insidious and power is such a heady drug bureaucrats can never relinquish it once it is within their addicted grasp.

From a similar angle comes this blog about an author being told she cannot epublish material unrelated to a book she sold. The publisher would, in effect, control her professional life for the duration of the contract. There are lots of details missing here and this is only the tip of the iceberg. What the rest of that floe looks like is anybody’s guess, but it is a cautionary tale for authors. VIPub and legacy publishing can coexist but not this way. Epubbing can enhance a print book’s sales, not detract from it. That might be a hard concept to get through to some publishers, but it’s true. They would gain if the author is successful and, if they think such epubbing would harm their product, let their PR dept work overtime to say their book is different.

Worst case: Hire Charlie Sheen as PR guy.

No Country for Old Men September 3, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in gummint, history, space.
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Just outside Marfa, Texas (if you saw the movie referenced in the title, you know how barren it is) you can find Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin test range. A recent launch was a failure. The various news reports make it out to be the end of the program, how terrible it is to fail so miserably and some even hinted that “there are things man was not meant to do(know).”

How sad. The MSM reports these things as if failure should never happen, and this, I suspect, reflects a more general feeling in the US. No one should fail, nothing should go wrong, and if it does the gummint ought to help where stupid individuals stumbled. I certainly hoped the Blue origin test would be a resounding success. But it wasn’t and I hope they learned a great deal from it to improve the next. And the next and the next. Failures happen. It’s how you respond that matters. Give up as the MSM seems to want? Or keep going until you are successful?

“Victory is not an option” has become the slogan for America. I’m glad Bezos and the other space pioneers are pressing on. I forget the exact details of the myth about Thomas Edison and the light bulb (now an evil destroyer of our environment and from which the gummint must protect us) but he supposedly tried thousands of combinations for the filament in the bulb before finding tungsten wire. Or was it cotton thread? He kept going and produced the Mazda.

NASA can give up under gummint “victory is not an option” but private individuals and companies must not. When the Russians seriously talk about letting the ISS deorbit and we find ourselves in the position of being unable to supply it or, maybe, even to get the astronauts aboard back to earth, it’s time to get the gummint out of the space business. The danger of this is passing laws preventing anyone from doing what they couldn’t.

The theme of the movie “No Country for Old Men” was acceptance of getting out of the way when things turn…different. Don’t pretend they haven’t changed. Learn to deal with new reality, no matter how distasteful or scary it might be. Adapt or get out of the way.

We’re at this crossroads now with space. The only hope for manned space exploration lies in private hands–and the Chinese.

They Gotta Be Kidding? August 19, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, fantasy, gummint, ideas, sci-fi, UFOs, weather, writing.
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They Gotta Be Kidding?

NASA is worried about something more than failing at their Muslim outreach mission? Why, yes, they are. They worry those grays will find us because of global warming and destroy us. Does any of that make sense? Carl Sagan said it was the oxygen that differentiated a populated vs a non-populated planet. He was thinking in terms of higher lifeforms, not slime. Oh, wait, excuse me. Sagan was thinking. That’s the big difference here.

Dumb aliens might be, at this very moment, invading planets with lots of volcanic activity? Or carpet bombing Venus?

I suppose we can excuse NASA since their real mission of manned space exploration is a thing of the past that they have gone a little…wonky. Dotty? Like old Uncle Herk who talks about World War I when he wasn’t even born then, goes on about painting electrons green and wanders about talking to himself a lot? Like ole Uncle Herk, I suppose we have to put up with NASA but the price tag is a lot higher. Uncle Herk at least gets Social Security and might qualify to be put in a home real soon now.

But let’s think stfnally for a moment. If the dumb aliens want to wipe us out because we generate CO2, according to NASA (we’re the gummint, trust us), why isn’t the reverse equally plausible? The dumb aliens come to earth to *buy* our CO2. They’re CO2 deprived. Earth prospers! Until there is no more CO2 left and we die in an ice age.

“Like fools we have let the devil take command of our souls…”

On so many levels, we seriously need what Jeff Wayne is singing here: