The It’s Not Quite Been Two Weeks Update

Steph just pointed out that it’s been almost two weeks since I last updated my blog.

Um … oops?

I’ll blame it on the ungodly heat and humidity we’ve had lately that has caused me to melt into a puddle of goo every time I stared out a window, let alone stepped outside.  With the windows closed and multiple fans in close proximity, let’s do a recap of the uneventful but rather packed past two weeks:

Over at Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing, I reviewed Germline, the debut novel of T.C. McCarthy.  A solid, very well written story about a future war with some not-so-transparent parallels to the modern day.  Really enjoyed reading it and I think McCarthy has a strong storyline for continuing the rest of his trilogy.  At present, I’m working through the ARC for The Black God’s War by Moses Siregar.  BGW has been my reintroduction into epic fantasy and so far Moses has made it pretty easy for me.  Not sure how soon I’ll get the review knocked out (I’m really hoping this week) but so far so good.

Over on the personal novel front, I finished off editing another four chapters today.  This brings me up to Chapter 20.  Unfortunately, that’s 19 chapters short of the 39 that I wanted to complete in July.  I may have misunderestimated my editing speed.  On the positive side – when I started the editing process, Genie Memories was at 66,000 words in length.  Now it stands at 74,000 and will probably grow.  The best part is these additional words are adding to the story and fleshing it out in ways that were lacking earlier.  I am most pleased with this progress.

Lastly, the blog might change a bit tomorrow.  I plan on upgrading to the latest version of WordPress and seeking out a few new plugins to help mobile users and the like.  There might even be a theme change, provided I can find one that looks good.

So there’s that.

The IQ of My Phone Went Up

My Phone Is Smarter Than Me

A few weeks ago, Steph and I decided to join the modern era and upgraded to Smart Phones. Previously, we each had and swore by our simple cell phones. They made phone calls, took suitable pictures, and with an unlimited text message plan, we could send quirky messages with bad grammar to one another. Granted, doing so took me ten minutes to type a simple message but the point is that I could if I wanted to.

But with Steph’s business travel picking up, we felt that she needed something more powerful. So we went out and got her an Android-based phone. Specifically the Samsung Mesmerize (Galaxy S series). I personally would have gotten her a Droid X but US Cellular doesn’t carry those and Verizon’s plans are too danged expensive.

How’s it working? Well, on a recent trip to Portland, Steph was able to tether her laptop to the phone (bypassing the expensive, poor quality airport Internet), take high quality photos, and keep me up to date on her flights. When out to dinner, we used the phones to look up those random, nagging bits of trivia that always seem to come up while out on the town. The GPS feature helped when written instructions failed and the Our Groceries app is really quite useful for our grocery list. So I’m going to say the investment has been worthwhile.

How’d I end up with one? Well, looking at the uses and the calling plans, the cost difference was negligible … oh, hell. I totally failed my Saving Throw vs Shiny.

As for text messaging – the bane of the old phone – the Android utilizes Swype which makes texting very easy. Now we use texting for just about everything. In fact, not long after we got the phones, I received a message while sitting in my home office from Steph who was sitting in the living room:

See? Without a Smart Phone, how would I have ever known that?

It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity

No, I beg to pardon but it really is the heat.

Looking forward to mowing the lawn when I get home.  I might just set myself on fire and save the hassle of going outside.

Update (4:28pm): I’ve been told that Winneshiek County (where I live) had the hottest temps in the state today and a nearby town lost power for over an hour due to the power usage.  I believe it.

Thoughts on Camping

This is a tent.

A Tent

This tent is positioned in a campsite and is serving its intended purpose.  Tents are, if of sufficient quality and construction, quite pleasant and can provide very comfortable weekend quarters for one or more persons no matter the weather.  The tent pictured here weathered storms, heatwaves, and wind all in the same trip.  Also visible in this picture are the staples of camping – a campfire, chairs, picnic table, food from a cooler, etc.

via leobard @ flickr

This is not camping.  This is a hotel room on wheels.

There is nothing wrong with RVs.  My parents have one parked at an RV park and it makes for a great weekend retreat.  They are quite pleasant for older folks for whom sleeping on the ground is not a viable option or those with large families or a couple making a long cross country trip.

But do not pretend that it is camping.  Here’s some tips on how to determine if you are camping or not*:

  • If your outdoors experience requires a generator to power equipment, you are not camping.
  • If your outdoors experience includes a DirectTV Satellite dish mounted on your picnic table, you are not camping.
  • If you use the phrases ‘I will get that from the fridge’ or ‘Let’s just microwave that’, you are not camping.
  • If your lodging requires not one, but two air conditioners … just admit it.  You’re so far from camping you might as well have stayed home and turned on the Nature channel.

If you meet any of the above criteria, you are not camping and you are not permitted to use the phrases ‘communing with nature’ or ‘getting back to nature’ or ‘roughing it’.  If you so much as attempt to utter those phrases, I will introduce nature via a tree branch across your backside.

Clear?  Great.  Have fun out there.  It’s a great world to see – even better when camping.

* All these examples were taken from a brief trip through the campground this morning while accompanying Steph on a run. No, I am not exaggerating anything.  Not even the air conditioners.

To Infinity and Beyond … Or Not


Today, of course, is one of those bittersweet moments.  When Atlantis comes back down, it’ll be trucked off to some museum to be part of the history books.  And right now, that’s all it looks like it will be – history.

As my wife said, “This makes me sad.”

There’s an exchange in the movie Apollo 13 which takes place shortly after the disaster has made the news:

Henry Hurt: I, uh, I have a request from the news people.
Marilyn Lovell: Uh-huh?
Henry Hurt: They’re out front here. They want to put a transmitter up on the lawn.
Marilyn Lovell: Transmitter?
Henry Hurt: Kind of a tower, for live broadcast.
Marilyn Lovell: I thought they didn’t care about this mission. They didn’t even run Jim’s show.
Henry Hurt: Well, it’s more dramatic now. Suddenly people are…
Marilyn Lovell: Landing on the moon wasn’t dramatic enough for them – why should NOT landing on it be?
Henry Hurt: Look, I, um, I realize how hard this is, Marilyn, but the whole world is caught up in this, it’s historic-…
Marilyn Lovell: No, Henry! Those people don’t put one piece of equipment on my lawn. If they have a problem with that, they can take it up with my husband. He’ll be HOME… on FRIDAY!

That about sums up today’s attitude.  Unless something goes wrong, people don’t care and they most certainly don’t have the will for a space program (or anything that doesn’t have immediate return, for that matter).

“What’s in it for me?”

“What does it cost?”


As a kid, I watched dozens of shuttle launches crammed into a classroom with all my classmates.  In the future, I watched at home while sitting in front of a computer.

I watched Challenger explode and when we went back to space 2 1/2 years later.  My parents once took my brothers and I to NASA HQ at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.   Looking at pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope remains one of my favorite things to do when I need inspiration.  I’m the sort of person who checks up on Voyager’s progress (117+ AU at this moment,  Give me a telescope and the Moon and I’ll be lost for hours.  Point me at the stars and you may never see me again.

I firmly believe that we are not alone in the Universe.  Take a look at this picture – the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field

The Ultra Deep Field covers a section of the sky equal to holding a 1mm x 1mm piece of paper at 1 meter distance.   Every dot in that picture is a galaxy, about 10,000 in all.  A galaxy contains between 10,000,000 and 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

Our lone star, the Sun, has 9 planets in orbit around it.

Give me odds, any odds, and the chances are they won’t be high enough to rule out life elsewhere.

It saddens me to know that there will probably never be another person on the Moon in my lifetime.  That Mars will probably only be seen through telescopes and robotic probes.   It’s not that the Shuttle program was without faults; it had its share.  The problem is there is nothing after it.  Now there’s just an empty hanger.


Because it’s the same reason you drive around the next bend in the road – to find out what’s there.

Because it’s not here.

Last Night’s Dream

A direct quote from a dream I had last night:

Friend : “We’re going to sneak into their base at night and attack.”

Me : “Sneak into their base?”

Friend :”Right!”

Me: “At night.”

Friend : “Right!”

Me: “They’re Vampires, you idiot!”

I really need to stop eating cookies before bed.

Back to Normal

Or as normal as it gets around here.

After two weeks, my hearing has returned from its siesta.  And thank freakin‘ God.  Not being able to hear was bad enough, but the whole ‘stand up too fast, get dizzy, fall down’ bit was driving me insane.  Stupid inner ear and its influence on balance.

Save for a few traces of the cold hanging out in my lungs, I’m a human being again.  That also means I can formulate a somewhat coherent blog post about writing.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the Genie Memories synopsis highlighted some flaws in the story.  These were large enough that I considered them to be show stoppers – there was no way I was going to send it out in that state.  So I took advantage of my downtime to start work on the 6th draft and I’ve been pretty pleased with results.

  • Over 2,000 words added (more to come)
  • Scenes cleaned up, characters brought more to life
  • Background and world building blended into the narrative
  • Occupation change for a key secondary character that eases a later info dump

The goal at the moment is to finish the draft before the end of July and have the query/letter synopsis package by mid-August.  I think that’s doable.  At least I hope so.  I’m looking forward to setting this story free and focusing on the next one.