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The Unseen World Around Us April 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, geocaching, history, ideas, New Mexico, outlaws, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, UFOs, writing.
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As you probably know by now, I am fascinated with the idea we go through life and see only a tiny fraction of it. This drew me to geocaching where most people go right by a cache and never know. This is a simple thing. The world–nature–is vastly more intriguing with its diversity and how new things pop up all the time, things we simply have not been attentive enough to see before.

In NM there are cemeteries all over the place, but who is buried int hem? Some terrible outlaw who never achieved the status of Billy the Kid or Blackjack Ketchum? Or just plain folks, putting in their time, working sunrise to sunset and then…dying. Unnoticed, or perhaps noticed only for a very short while by a very few people?

New discoveries in NM caverns possibly give us more powerful antibiotics. Who woulda thunk it? Back in 1986 the Lechuguilla Cave was discovered. It’s the 7th longest cave in the world and the deepest in the continental US. And antibiotic resistant bacteria have been found in it.

Which brings up the point, what antibiotics? Turns out these may be brand new ones. What else may be found here? It is near Roswell. Could those crafty UFOnauts be hiding down there, knowing it is the deepest point they could reach without digging? Are those antibiotics potentially from Out There, brought to Earth by the 1947 saucer crash? Or perhaps your ideas run more to thriller. If there is a bacterium, can it be used as a terror weapon? Only the antibiotic from the cave can save us?

More than 1200 new species of plants and animals have been found in the Amazon since 2000. What might James Cameron find diving into the Marianas Trench? That’s a long way down and hitherto unexplored.

Panspermia might be a way of repopulating lost species on earth. Comets and asteroid impacts can blast away huge chunks of earth (imagine finding those dinosaurs from ’40s and ’50s pulp stories on other planets!) And then return it.

So much of nature out there, unseen.


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!

They Gotta Be Kidding? August 19, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, fantasy, gummint, ideas, sci-fi, UFOs, weather, writing.

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:

Cowboys & Aliens (and Indians, Oh, My!) July 27, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in movies, New Mexico, sci-fi, science fiction, sense of wonder, UFOs, westerns, Wild West.

Saw Cowboys and Aliens last night and enjoyed it a lot. Daniel Craig makes a great cowboy, acting in the Clint Eastwood minimalist spaghetti western vein, but with the presence of some of the better modern day cowboy actors. Scott Glenn came to mind, though Craig is bulkier rather than rangy.

Thinking about it, we’ve got a good spectrum of actors who can handle western roles. Thomas Hayden Church, of course, Kevin Costner does best in westerns and least in sf, Scott Glenn, Robert Duvall.

And Harrison Ford did an acceptable job of playing a heavy in this–and had the movie’s major character arc. Sam Rockwell wasn’t too bad, either, nor was Clancy Brown.

Paul Hutton, exec director of WWA, was listed as an historical advisor. And the entire movie was shot in northern NM (great locations, simply great.

I suppose I need to categorize this as a western with sf plot (it is not an invidious comparison to Gene Autrey and the Phantom Empire–I love that old serial since it has death rays and robots and underground hidden civilizations, but it is a western first and then sf). For whatever reason, it was just assumed you knew all the sf tropes. Accept them and go with the flow and it’s fine. One woman told the screening rep that she wondered why the aliens wanted gold. That seemed obvious to me but on reflection wouldn’t be to a non-sf reader.

Likewise why were the aliens snatching humans and keeping them roped up? No need to explain. That’s what aliens do and the end scenes were highly reminiscent of Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind (which, btw, I am not a fan of). You know those movies and themes and the aliens are understandable. Don’t and they were pretty random.

Olivia Wilde had a nice role but seemed out of place somehow.

On the whole, like this but it’ll never be on my top 10 list for either western or sf. (And it can never replaced Phantom Empire in my heart for western sf).

Factoids April 24, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in gummint, ideas, sense of wonder, UFOs, web & computers, weird news, westerns, writing.
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Write what you know. That tired old dictum has been around forever, and it’s not really true. Well, in a sense it is because you cannot write about something you either don’t know or can’t think up. But I don’t know what it’s like on Mars. Nobody does, unless their name’s Opportunity or Spirit. Or what a real space alien is like (and I doubt they are tiny gray critters, but what do I *know*? I can make up better stuff than that.) Fiction out to be built from the wellspring of your imagination and not only what you know know.

Mixing weird little factoids into your fiction can be fun, though, and they are usually stranger than anything you can contrive. In the past week I’ve come across a few truly bizarre ones. I have no idea if I will ever use them in a story but they are curious to downright weird.

BLEVE is such an example. Passed along Saturday by a firefighter from the other side of the mountain. Video for Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, something you probably want to be far away from. Note in the video they say a 6 ton tank truck was blown over three-quarters of a mile. Let’s hear it for shipping propane and LNG on our highways.

Iguanas have the same internal structure as a chicken. I find this questionable but the source was impeccable. Iguanas have teeth and chickens don’t. Unless they are vampire chickens, of course. Hey, it could happen. Twilight has to go somewhere for a new plot, right?

Rolls Royce has an electric model for only $3m. It’ll go a fabulous 125 miles on an 8 hr charge using a 3 phase 220 line. (Is anyone else worried about having their electric bills go skyhigh thanks to electric car users? How many coal-fired generating plants spewing radon and soot will it take to power a fleet of electrics? Ones that don’t spontaneously catch fire? How many pounds of REE does it take to build this behemoth? It takes 25 lbs for a Priapus hybrid now. And will they use roads without paying taxes for it? (I noticed that some states are thinking about this since there won’t be gasoline taxes to build or maintain roads used by the sizzling little electrics.)

The Army Medical Museum collected skulls as part of a phrenology study. Captain Jack of Modoc War fame ended up there. Or at least his head did.

And Easter is undergoing the same changes as Christmas (hardly a factoid) but this is a wonderful convolution. Easter eggs are now politically correct spring spheres. Think of how hard that is for a chicken to lay. Spherical eggs? Ouch.

Happy Easter to those of you who indulge in biting the ears off chocolate bunnies and other traditional activities.

UF Wiki-Os January 21, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, gummint, New Mexico, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, UFOs, weird news, Wild West, writing.
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The ever consuming topic of UFOs crops up again. Over at i09.com they have this posted on whether the Wikileaks contain anything about UFO sightings. It is an interesting topic because I have always wondered about the Freedom of Information Act filings that produced not much of anything. Could it be there’s nothing there? Or is the gummint hiding it?

Considering how easy it was for the Wikileaks to get these memos, I can’t imagine anyone, much less entire generations of bureaucrats, keeping UFOs secret. One of my favorite stories was of a retired general who had a mummified alien hand he kept in a shoebox. He wouldn’t reveal it because he didn’t want to lose his pension. Well, uh, if it were real what he could make running a sideshow attraction would make that pension pale into insignificance. But those are the kinds of stories that get passed around.

In 1897 the Aurora, Texas UFO incident is kinda weird but similar to the Roswell Crash in 1947. The difference is that the Aurora UFOnauts are supposedly buried in the town cemetery. Back then an alien was likely lucky not to be eaten by coyotes (or hungry farmers).

These days everyone has a camera with them, on their cell phone if not elsewhere. The blue dot bouncing around over NYC a month or so back was caught and, as far as I can tell, never explained. It used to be easy to simply dismiss these things as mass hallucinations but the cameras and video are quickly dispelling that excuse. Swamp gas? A blue Venus in the daytime? Remember that Jimmy Carter saw a UFO (which was discounted as Venus)? But then he was also attacked by a rabbit (“That rabbit’s dynamite!”)

If you want the inside scoop on the Roswell UFO sighting, you can’t go wrong with Uncanny Encounters, now on Kindle. Nick Redfern has a great nonfiction historical what-we-really-know background piece on the crash.

Uncanny Encounters: Roswell

I Can See Forever January 6, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, ideas, iPad, pranks, science fiction, sense of wonder, UFOs, weird news, westerns, writing.
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Came across this newfangled gadget on Gizmodo that will make bifocals (or progressive) lenses obsolete. I like the idea of using a touch like you might along the edge of an iPad to focus, but I’m not sure how this works if you are, say, driving with both hands on the steering wheel. What if you brush a fly off your forehead and refocus for the end of your nose? The gyroscope they talk about is likely more of the accelerometer in an iPad, so it is almost off the shelf technology.

Good ole Ben Franklin invented bifocals but I have come across very little about opticians or optometrists in the Old West. Not one of those professions you needed much, I suppose, since reading was more often a group effort rather than solitary. Better to see down the street at the gun slick ready to throw down on you (which really didn’t happen much, unless your name was John Wesley Hardin). This might be an interesting story of the Wild West. Have Lens, Will Grind.

Other oddities that are head scratching. The 5000 blackbirds getting their innards homogenized is right up there. I cannot believe anyone seriously suggests fireworks when there is an easier explanation (other than HAARP, of course) Storm got the birds into the air, a lightning bolt sent a shock wave (aka thunder) ripping out and caught them in midair. Instant soup-for-guts. The hundred tons of dead fish can similarly be explained by tornadic winds–how many humans have been killed by unseasonable tornadoes? Five now? The dead birds in Sweden and fish in Argentina, well, this happens all the time but never gets reported. But it is now. Or it might be HAARP

But the master stroke of prankishness has to be the bright green Goldstream River. College nearby? With a good chemistry department? Nontoxic coloring? At UNM it used to be soap suds in the fountain, then somebody discovered Cheer or something blue that did the same thing but also turned the water blue. Better than the piranha in the duck pond since you couldn’t actually see the piranha every time you walked by.

Then there is Edgar Allan Poe’s libidinous Man-bats on the moon

The good old days…

(And don’t forget tomorrow Jan 7 to go to #scifichat at 2-4PM EDT for a twitter chat on starship captains and an hr worth of Q&A)


Alien Bacteria on a Segway December 3, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in gummint, ideas, inventions, sense of wonder, space, UFOs, weird news, writing.
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NASA’s announcement yesterday was what I thought.  Huge hype and hohum result.  It reminded me of the hype leading up to the unveiling of the Segway, which was supposed to reform western civilization and change the way we live.  That might work for GOB (or Wozniak and his Segway polo team) but not so much for anyone else.  This goes to show how far the mighty NASA has fallen.

For you idea folks out there.  I saw this about a 7-month space mission put up by the Air Force which might mean return to a manned space presence.  The X-37B was taken over from NASA by the Pentagon for some kind of secret military missions.  They put this up for an extended period of time for…why?  Who knows?  But there you can speculate like crazy and get a dozen different kinds of novels out of it.

The 7-month would be an incredible time for a murder mystery.  Body stuffed into X-37B and it wouldn’t be found for over a year.  What kind of investigation would be done after the body was found (since this is a black ops flight)?  And if the idea was to sabotage the reentry, all evidence would be burned up.  Or left in orbit forever.

What sort of high-tech thriller mission might this represent?  Maybe it was manned and the astronaut died?  What could cause that?  Something top secret or just a test flight that went wrong?  What would the astronaut think and do knowing he (she?) was never going to return–and capcom held the reins of communications so there’d never be word leaked.  Apollo 13 without the publicity?

A YA book.  The old kids sneak aboard.  But they have a reason and know they’ll be rescued–by alien friends already in orbit.

Or a straight sf story about getting to orbit to ferry down an alien ambassador but something goes terribly wrong.

And people ask where ideas come from.  Now if I could only get my Segway to motor on over to the arsenic bacteria filled lake and…

Serve Up That Roadkill November 23, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in cats, ideas, UFOs, weird news.
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Ken sent this link along about a guy advocating roadkill for Thanksgiving

I suppose the green movement is everywhere and the old saw about “waste not want not” might even become “waist not want knot” depending on what you find. I got to thinking, always a serious disaster sign, and decided if I wanted to got his route, it ought to be as a connoisseur.

To wit (or half wit): I want my Thanksgiving roadkill to be gourmet. Flat cat, Goodyear 2009. Deer, Michelin 2008. Armadillo, Pirelli 2010. Coyote, Dunlop 1981. (Harder to determine since there won’t be any tread left, so all the more desirable…).

Ken suggested that around Roswell there might be an alien or two run over and available. Unidentified Flattened Objets, as he said. Aliens, the other gray meat.

Choose wisely, ye potential gourmand wannabes.

More UFOs November 13, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in contest, nostalgia, UFOs, weird news.
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They never stop, it seems. Here’s a new blue dot in the sky one in Virginia this time outside DC. It seems similar to the blue dot the guy in NYC video’d last week, so I’d say the two are related somehow.
Curiouser and curioser.

Back in the day you could have a good hoax and not be sent to jail for life because of it. Cannot remember the guy’s name but he was a PR flack. He took an elephant’s foot wastebasket and made tracks in the snow into a reservoir, then called to complain about tasting rhinoceros in his drinking water. A whole spate of complaints came in. Wonderful prank. Who knows what rhinoceros water would taste like? That made it all the more fun. And a prank like the 1835 one where (I think) Poe wrote that Herschel had discovered furry bat men on the Moon.

Nowadays we have to rely on global warming for such hijinx.

Nobody really knows how April’s Fools Day came about, but it has certainly degenerated from the days when, in grade school, the “your shoe’s untied” was all the rage. I suspect trying any kind of real prank now would constitute a hostile work environment and be good for hard time in Leavenworth. I have to admit not missing the pepper gum (whoever actually bit on that one, anyway? But who didn’t try it to see what it tasted like?) Or the joy buzzer. Yeah, I had one. But good pranks often go awry. I replaced the lock on my best friend Ed’s locker once at Irvin High. He couldn’t get it open. Let me try, I said, opened it easily using the real combination, closed it, he couldn’t get it open. Great fun. I opened it again, he grabbed the lock (my PE locker lock) and stormed off to complain. Had to race into the counselor’s office and steer him out (while maintaining the lock, which I needed) Counselor was probably glad to get rid of another problem without having to do anything. Today I’d have been sentenced to anger management, grief counseling and probably suspended for a week.

So how’s NaNoWriMo coming for you? I finished the book. Now to rewrite and get on to a short story or two.