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Telephoto
I was banned from the airliners.net photography forum by concerned moderators after the end of my lens started brushing against planes as they flew by.
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Refresh Types
The hardest refresh requires both a Mac keyboard and a Windows keyboard as a security measure, like how missile launch systems require two keys to be turned at once.
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Once Per Day
I'm not totally locked into my routine—twice a year, I take a break to change the batteries in my smoke detectors.
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Election Map
Luckily for my interpretation, no precincts were won by the Green Party.
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Air Force Museum
I had fun visiting the museum at Dover Air Force Base, unless they don't have a museum, in which case I've never been to Delaware in my life.
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Decades
In the 90s, our variety radio station used the tagline "the best music of the 70s, 80s, and 90s." After 2000, they switched to "the best music of the 80s, 90s, and today." I figured they'd change again in 2010, but it's 2017 and they're still saying "80s, 90s, and today." I hope radio survives long enough for us to find out how they deal with the 2020s.
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Glacial Erratic
"This will take a while, which sucks, because I'm already so busy chiseling out igneous intrusions from rock formations and watching Youtube loops of the Superman fault-sealing scene over and over."

Proof of Principle

Dateline Munich. Scribbled in a near-coma while sitting in a chair which has been designed by aliens who obviously never looked at a human body.

Which is to say, at an airport…

 

 

Something slipped under my radar last week. I was nose-deep in “Freeze-Frame Revolution” and the upcoming Ratio talk, and when I looked up to find my way to the airport, “Fish To Mars” had hatched.

It’s still larval, mind you. Eighty percent yolk sac and 10% big round eyes. But there it was, wriggling in the current for an hour on the evening of May 31: a live trailer-for/excerpt-from next year’s (hopefully) full-blown production “Fish To Mars” belted out— appropriately enough— amongst the seals and lumpfish of the Bergen Aquarium.

I’m writing the story. It involves terrorist vegan gengineering and academic hierarchies and marbled lungfish and autocannibalism.  Also terraforming and First Contact with aliens who showed up on Earth long before Kubrick’s transcendent monolith-makers, and who— being not very bright— bet on an utterly wrong horse. There’s a lot of story, a lot of backstory, and yet the story almost seems to be the least of it. It’s an actual opera, you see; a fusion of classic high-pitched arias and growling distorted black-metal grunge. There’s music, and a libretto. There are singers and sets and costumes— relatively primitive at this stage, the event was basically a proof-of-principle exercise after all— and scientific fact-checking courtesy of  a number of real authorities, not the least being the co-discoverer of Dark Energy. We’re after verisimilitude, here. This aims to be the most scientifically-rigorous opera about alien lungfish on Mars ever written.

It is a high bar to clear.

The production is so multifaceted that the story itself is really more seed than structure; the actual production was built by people from a half-dozen institutions and I-don’t-know how many independent agents and artists.  It was an orgy of musical collaboration between Oded Ben-Horin (on the classical side) and Arild Brakstad (on the black-metal side), all of us herded by the award-winning jet-setting Karin Pittman of the University of Bergen (and who honestly seems way too connected for your average marine biologist— I’m starting to think that’s a cover identity or something).

Really, it shouldn’t have worked. But I’ve heard some tunes, and I’ve seen the pics, and…well, yes. It really seems to have turned out nicely. Wish I could’ve been there.

All the following photos are by Jarle Hovda Moe.

The set was really cool.

The set was really cool.

...although admittedly, some of the props could have used a bit more work.admittedly have

…although admittedly, some of the props could have used a bit more work.

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I think those were scientists on the left. And the guy with the bowling ball on his head is an engineer.

I think those were scientists on the left. And the guy with the bowling ball on his head is either an engineer or the most overqualified post-doc in the solar system.

I think this might be kind of a post-apocalyptic Greek Chorus.

I think this might be kind of a post-apocalyptic Greek Chorus.

I don't actually now if this is part of the performance or not, but it looks cool.

I don’t actually now if this is part of the performance or not, but it looks cool.

This is Karin, who set the whole thing up. And something else I got a PhD in once, but I've forgotten the details

This is Karin, who set the whole thing up. And something else I got a PhD in once, but I’ve forgotten the details

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Dubious Study
Sounds fine. I looked up the Academy, and it says on their MySpace page that their journal is peer-viewed and downloaded biannually.
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Drone Problems
On the other hand, as far as they know, my system is working perfectly.

An X-Prize for Irony.

 

 

There are these things called “X Prizes”. You may have heard of them. They’re big cash awards, handed out by the non-profit Xprize Foundation to encourage advances in everything from spaceflight to genomics to undersea exploration. It’s run by some pretty big names; Craig Venter may ring a bell with some of you. Or Ray Kurzweil. Or, um, Arianna Huffington.

Together, they want to save the world.

It’s obviously a pretty optimistic endeavor. “The benefit of humanity” shows up twice in a  mission statement of only 15 lines. The email I received last night, encouraging me to help spread the word about their new advisory body, suggested use of the phrase “chart a path toward a positive future”.

Given all this, you have to wonder why they’d want me anywhere near their clubhouse. Maybe they haven’t read any of my stuff. Maybe they’ve got me mixed up with some other Peter Watts. I asked the person who recruited me about that. She said I had the right sense of humor.

So there I am, second shelf from the bottom: part of X-Prize’s “Science Fiction Advisory Council“, up there with sixty-odd other SF writers, film-makers, and scientists, most of whom are of far greater stature than I. I’m told we hail from nine countries; that among us we have 13 doctorates, 44 Hugos, 28 Nebulas (Nebulae?), 35 Locuses, 10 John W. Campbells, six Arthur C. Clarkes, six British Science Fiction Association Awards, and one Academy Award. Looking beyond all that chrome I see a collection of colleagues, friends, personal heroes, and benefactors (you may know Straczynski from B5; I also know him for the massive donation he made to my legal defense back in 2010). I see a large number of people I’d love to hang out with over beers (and only one or two that I wouldn’t). It’s an august group, and I’m proud to be part of it.

One thing that makes me cringe a bit is my bio note. It’s self-aggrandizing. I wrote it years ago, in deference to some agency or application that demanded extreme tub-thumpery. I freshened it up and sent it off to the X-Prize people in case they, too, demanded Ultimate Pimpage— but I also submitted another bio which, as I told them, “has much less of a stick up its ass, and would be the one I’d choose if I had my druthers.”

The dude told me it was the best email he’d received all day. But they went with the ass-stick anyway.

I submit the other below. Because it’s better.  Just so you know.

Peter Watts spent the first two decades of his adult life as a marine biologist. After fleeing academia for science fiction, he became known for the habit of appending technical bibliographies onto his novels; this both confers a veneer of credibility and covers his ass against nitpickers. Described by the Globe & Mail as “one of the very best [hard-sf writers] alive”, the overall effect of his prose is perhaps best summed up by critic James Nicoll: “Whenever I find my will to live becoming too strong, I read Peter Watts”.

Watts’ debut novel (Starfish) was a New York Times Notable Book, while his fourth (Blindsight)— a rumination on the utility of consciousness which has become a required text in undergraduate courses ranging from philosophy to neuroscience— was a finalist for numerous North American genre awards, winning exactly none of them. (It did, however, win a shitload of awards overseas, which suggests that his translators may be better writers than he is.) His shorter work has also picked up trophies in a variety of jurisdictions, notably a Shirley Jackson (possibly due to fan sympathy over nearly dying of flesh-eating disease in 2011) and a Hugo (possibly due to fan outrage over an altercation with US border guards in 2009). The latter incident resulted in Watts being barred from entering the US— not getting on the ground fast enough after being punched in the face by border guards is a “felony” under Michigan statutes— but especially these days, he can’t honestly say he misses the place all that much.

Watts’s work is available in 20 languages. He and his cat, Banana (since deceased) have both appeared in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. A few years ago he briefly returned to science with a postdoc in molecular genetics, but he really sucked at it.

Now I sit back and wait for the conference calls with James Cameron.

 

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State Word Map
The top search for every state is PORN, except Florida, where it's SEX PORN.
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Voting Systems
Kenneth Arrow hated me because the ordering of my preferences changes based on which voting systems have what level of support. But it tells me a lot about the people I'm going to be voting with!
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Opening Crawl
Using a classic Timothy Zahn EU/Legends novel is bad enough, but at least the style and setting aren't too far off. If you really want to mess with people, try using Splinter of the Mind's Eye.
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Anti-Drone Eagles
It's cool, it's totally ethical--they're all programmed to hunt whichever bird of prey is most numerous at the moment, so they leave the endangered ones alone until near the end.
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Who?
Gonna feel even dumber when I realize that all this time he's been talking into a bluetooth thingy and we're not actually friends.
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Genetic Testing Results
That's very exciting! The bad news is that it's a risk factor for a lot of things.
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Doctor Visit
According to these blood tests, you're like 30% cereal.
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Machine Learning
The pile gets soaked with data and starts to get mushy over time, so it's technically recurrent.
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Rental Car
Technically, both cars are haunted, but the murder ghosts can't stand listening to the broken GPS for more than a few minutes.
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