Stone of Remembrance

August 29, 2008

The Internet Is Dark and Deep . . .

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 18:27

Three Brooklyn Bridges: 1908 panorama

. . . and there’s always something new (and something old) to see. Case in point: Shorpy, “a blog about old photos and what life a hundred years ago was like: How people looked and what they did for a living.” Thanks to Chris again for this link. If you like this, you won’t be able to stop looking through it (and there are 500+ pages of the stuff).

Addendum Aug 31: Also take a look at The Lewis Hine Project, and how it tries to identify the faces that look out from some of these amazing photographs.

At Worldcon I observed on a panel that when we look at a photo or hear a story, the people being discussed are experiencing their “present” – whether it’s our past or future, or some period that we will never experience, for them it’s right now. So it is with the photos on these sites. Most of those shown are long gone, but in those pictures they’re alive . . . and when they were taken, I did not exist; I wasn’t even being contemplated. Scary, really.

August 27, 2008

Yet More Steampunk

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 23:01

Another referral from one of my willing minions: Brass Goggles, a site which describes itself as “A blog and forum devoted to the lighter side of all things Steampunk”. Just looking at the pictures is an entertaining diversion. Thanks to Chris for pointing me at this one.

August 22, 2008


Filed under: Travel, Walter\'s Schedule, Writing — admin @ 12:45

I will be attending BangPop in Bangor, Maine.

Pop Culture in Maine

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 12:41

I’ve been invited to a one-day event in beautiful Bangor, Maine called BangPop. While it appears that the focus is mainly on comic books and graphic novels, it will also feature some fiction writers, including Mark Sehestedt, who passed my name to the event coordinators.

I am looking forward to attending this event, and hope to meet (or bring about new) fans of my work.

August 20, 2008

A Constituency Heard From

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 14:42

My gaming buddy Constantine von Hoffman, who describes himself as “a sometime journalist, alleged humorist and social media maven”, has an amusing blog that recently picked up on a swipe made by the McCainites against the Obamoids.

He writes:

I’ve tried to be bipartisan in both my support and bashing of the two presidential contenders but Sen. McCain has just crossed the line. His campaign is trying to say that playing Dungeons & Dragons is a BAD THING!!!

He then quotes the offensive comment –

It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.

which first appeared here, on the McCain web site. And – in another nice catch – Constantine points at this earlier comment by the same author, also insulting D&D.

Well, there’s an apology of course, and then responses . . . go look at the Collateral Damage article, as it’s very well summarized. But this comment thread is worth following up, as it’s hilarious.

So, one wonders what awakening this core constituency might mean for the competing candidates. I go to a number of science-fiction conventions and gaming events every year (and rarely let myself get drawn on politics, though I am always at pains to be polite and respectful to those who have worn or are wearing our nation’s uniform): there are people of every political stripe there. Is this a sleeping giant waiting to be awoken? And what will be the consequence?

I guess it depends on whether they’re real men, real roleplayers, loonies or munchkins. If munchkins, of course, they’ll just vote for whoever gives the most plusses.

August 19, 2008

LHC and Wacky Science

Filed under: Commentary, Research — admin @ 11:05

I read an article about the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC. Being a science fiction writer and a general science-y guy, I was interested (and remain woefully underinformed) on what is exactly going on. Fortunately, we have at our disposal a vast repository of information on virtually any subject, most of it misleading or generally wrong, that can enlighten us. Some people think that the LHC could generate dark matter or even mini-black holes or strangelets, which would be Bad.

Apparently there was a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the use of the LHC, just in case the pocket-protector crowd was wrong and its use could be Bad in just this way. While prodding the huge pile of elephant poop that is our beloved Internet, I turned up this blog entry which I found amusing.

The author writes about the litigants:

. . . it’s not so nuts that we shouldn’t look into it. There are two causes for some concern: one is that LHC might create a black hole which would eat the Earth, and the other is that a very odd quantum entity called a strangelet might be created, with equally devastating results.

I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. I want to make that clear up front.

The LHC will slam subatomic particles together at fantastic speeds. The collision in a sense shatters the particles and all sorts of weird beasties are created in the aftermath . . . That’s what has the two litigators worried.

. . .

If two subatomic particles collide at high enough speed, it’s possible that they will collapse into a black hole. If that happens, it would fall through the Earth and, well, you can guess what bad things would happen then . . . However, studies done by CERN show that the energies generated will be too low to make black holes. Also, due to a weird effect called Hawking radiation, the tiny black holes would evaporate instantly. The two litigants, however, say that Hawking radiation is not an established fact, and therefore we should be more careful. While that’s technically true, they forgot something important: the same rules of quantum physics that make a black hole in a subatomic collision also indicate they would evaporate. So if you’re worried they won’t evaporate, then you shouldn’t be worried they’d be created in the first place.

Same goes for the creation of a quantum strangelet . . . [however] it’s incredibly unlikely they would be created even by LHC. And even if they were created, the chances of them being a danger are very small . . . higher energy particles hit the Moon all the time. If strangelets could be created in this way, the Moon would have converted to a big ball o’ strangelets billions of years ago.

. . .

. . . in this particular case the litigants are wrong. A lawsuit seems like overkill. In fact, it’s so odd that my skeptical gland was tweaked, and I decided to look into the litigants’ backgrounds.

And here’s where I felt the urge to post to my own blog.

Walter Wagner apparently has a physics background, but was involved in a similar lawsuit over the Brookhaven collider a few years back, which turned out to be completely baseless.

As for the other, Luis Sancho, he’s, well, how do I phrase this delicately? He’s a bit outside the mainstream. Actually, way outside the mainstream. In fact, totally and way way far outside the mainstream. I don’t think you can even see the mainstream from where he is.

Following the link provided, you get to a page full of all kinds of wacky stuff, including (but hardly limited to) the diagram below:

Yeah, gallactic. From the same root word as Gallifrey, I’m guessing.

What is the main difference between a macrocosmic and a microcosmic organism? Macrocosmic organisms live longer, occupy more organic space, and ab=use smaller forms as part of their “organic design.” They are Top Predator species. So, for example, the Earth, is a macro-organism, bigger and more complex than us as an organism, with a longer life span than humans. And once we are gone, she’ll be still there.

So are galaxies: macro-organisms of energy and information, made of planetary and star herds, that use gravitational forces to communicate. This creates a problem: we cannot perceive the essential communication between stars and planets, because it is “written” in a gravitational force, invisible to man. Yet we can look at galaxies externally and find their arrows of organicism:

Star herds. “Yippy tie-yi-yo, get along little nebula. You know that Andromeda will be your new home.”

I think I’ll take my chances with Science™, thank you very much.

Thanks, by the way, to Phil Plait, whose blog entry I quoted extensively above. He’s the author of Bad Astronomy, a great book I highly recommend.

Update 19 August: The startup date is now September 10 and will be webcast. I expect that the Earth will not be destroyed, as it would mean that my new book would never appear. :-)

MarsCon 2009

Filed under: Commentary, Walter\'s Schedule — admin @ 09:33

I will be at MarsCon in Minneapolis March 6-8, 2009.

Arisia 2009

Filed under: Commentary, Walter\'s Schedule — admin @ 09:23

I will be Author Guest of Honor at Arisia January 16-19, 2009, in Cambridge, MA.

Philcon 2008

Filed under: Commentary, Walter\'s Schedule — admin @ 09:13

I will be attending Philcon in Philadelphia. Actually, it will be in Cherry Hill, NJ, where I proposed to my wife. (After our rental car was stolen, I should mention.)

August 18, 2008

Taking the Hobbits . . .

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 20:29

Well, all right. Among my many ones of fans is my buddy Chris, who turns up weird stuff in other parts of the Internet that I do not usually visit. The net is a fractal place, of course; no matter how many places you look, there is no significant reduction in the total number of places you haven’t looked yet.

For example, here’s something about which I knew nothing. I am not convinced that it might have been better if I hadn’t learned. But the ladies of the house thought it was hilarious.


According to the ever-unreliable Urban Dictionary, the term taking the hobbits to Isengard refers to

Taking a poop, going to the bathroom when it is a #2

Hold up! James is taking the hobbits to isengard… too much taco bell.

Thanks. That image really helps.

If this pop culture reference (no doubt I’m the last person in the world to hear about it) excites you, there are versions of the thing using the cast from The Office, strange anime characters, and even LEGO® figures. There are others, too numerous to mention.

Thanks, Chris. Think I’ll go to Isengard myself now.

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