We’ve all seen the story by now; scientists and researchers have given us a picture of a black hole. A real, actual, verified thing, not just an artist’s rendering or a screencap from a sci-fi movie. The picture for this article is not, in fact, that black hole picture, because it’s been all over the internet and I don’t want to just repost it again, so this is a NASA pic of another galaxy. Seriously, folks, it’s another galaxy!
Turns out, Einstein was right. Over 100 years ago, his theory of General Relativity predicted how the large scale forces of the universe worked. His formulas helped describe gravity, the various behaviors of light, and how we all can feel our own individual versions of each, separate from any other person out there.
His theory also predicted black holes (singularities), their event horizons, and how they’d all behave.
One Hundred years ago, people. With no computers, just math and equations that seemed to make sense based on the observations made about the universe around us. And he is apparently right, once again.
This should be seen as a monumental achievement, a crowning effort of humanity. Multiple telescopes from different countries across the world ran for years. A huge team put petabytes worth of data together to create an actual picture for us to marvel at. An MIT grad named Katie Baumann wrote the algorithm that allowed the computer to turn all that data into pictures for people to see and use as wallpaper on their phones and computers. Here’s a link to a neat article by Popular Mechanics on the process that isn’t filled with ads and subscription requests
People thought it was cool for a day, and now we’ve moved on, apparently.
Where is the wonder?
I often ask that of people. Our nine year old daughter told me she wants to be an astrophysicist when she grows up. She loves talking about space, stars, the universe. She wraps her brain around concepts like how a star forms, how it lives, and how it dies. She really wants to understand how the universe around us works. And as long as she’s interested, I will do anything I can to foster that wonder. Why to atoms stick together? Why do protons, neutrons, and electrons even join together to form atoms? Why do we cling to the planet and not go floating off into space? How does the sun heat the Earth? How fast does light travel? Why does light act like both a particle AND a wave?
How many people know the answer to any of these questions?
Now, let me ask you this? Who won the NCAA championship? Who’s the fan favorite of American Idol this season? Which Kardashian is getting married/divorced this week?
See where I’m going here?
There are people out there trying to figure out how the universe works. Maybe to most, it’s not that important since we can’t really do anything about it. It’s basically explained by the Anthropic Principle. I don’t have the book in front of me, but I’m pretty sure it was Steven Hawking who stated it as, “We’re here because we’re here.” Short version is, we are able to observe the universe and so the observations we make are based on us existing to make those observations. For example, if the strong and weak nuclear forces didn’t hold atoms together the way they do, we wouldn’t exist, at least in the way we know it. Therefore, the universe ‘works’. Click this link to see a better explanation put together by smart people with degrees in sciency stuff.
These people are trying to explain how it all goes together, and I really think they deserve more credit. People like Ms. Baumann and the astrophysicists should be on the morning and late night talk shows, telling us why it’s important to humanity that we make these discoveries. I think back to a series of Youtube videos I saw by physicist Brian Cox. If you haven’t heard of him, think of him as the British Neil deGrasse Tyson, both of whom are successors to the likes of people such as Carl Sagan and Steven Hawking; people that made science accessible to everyone and inspired us to learn.
Anyway, in the videos, Brian Cox walks on stage to enthusiastic applause. People are treating him like a rock star as he explains light wave theory and talks about concepts like relative time and other advanced ideas. He even has a lecture tour going right now in the USA and I am hoping to arrange my schedule to attend.
This, to me, seems like what our perceptions should be about folks like Brian Cox. People are cheering and waving him onstage so he can tell them how things work. We should be celebrating people like that. Instead, we glorify celebrity gossip, annoying and offended people who talk really loud, stars who set all kinds of horrible examples, and more. Really, you could keep going, couldn’t you? Just fill in the blanks for a few more examples of people we shouldn’t be looking up to but actually do.
Anyway, what I hope comes of this is a shift in our priorities and attention. More focus on people who are doing good for humanity, less attention on annoying people who seem to be famous for being famous.
Kayce Dodge was a small-town cop who grew up in the shadow of her famous FBI agent father. She’d loved him dearly, but after his death had moved clear across the country to blaze her own trail.
She had no idea her carefully planned out life was about to be completely upended by the terrorist organization involving her father’s last case, a charismatic criminal intent on reshaping the world, and the planet’s last nuclear weapon.
Damn narcissistic evil visionaries. Anyway, it’s another foray into ‘present day’ fiction. I love me some sci-fi, but wanted to do something in a modern setting. In addition, I really felt it was past due to write a female lead character. Women make up half the population, so they deserve to have a protagonist who blows up the bad guys as well!
When I was doing the cover for the novel (since my production staff is nonexistent) I thought back to the things I’ve had to learn in order to go about publishing a book and what I’ve learned along the way.
I have to admit, I came to embrace the phrase: “It’s only hard the first time.” There are a lot of things I’ve had to learn to do in order to send my writing out there to be consumed (and judged). I’ve had to learn to navigate the workings of Amazon and Barnes & Noble to publish, Sketchup and Twilight Render to make all my cover art and 3D graphic renders, Photoshop to put it all together, and more.
Most of the things I needed help with I found by using Youtube. You can learn how to replace the strut assembly of a Honda Civic (which I did), or watch annoying Youtubers play video games and feed each other gross food combinations (which my kids do). Then there are of course the cat videos. Cats playing ping pong; you’re welcome.
And I realized something; most of these things can seem daunting, insurmountable at first, but all you need to do it just go ahead and start doing it. If you can follow directions and stick with a task, you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish. How many things have you, Mr/Mrs Reader, done after much trepidation and hand-wringing and then though, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad”? Or at least, “Hey, the insurance will cover that.”
A hundred years ago, before our society became so automated and advanced, the average homeowner knew how to do everything around the house. We live in a day and age now where we all tend to specialize, but I’ve tried (with only average success, I’ll admit) over the years to increase my skillset. I’d really like to be able to say I have a broad range of knowledge, instead of the modern day trend of just figuring you can look it up on the internet when you realize you need to know something.
As you finish this post, think to yourself: What did you learn that you didn’t think you’d be able to? What would you learn if you had the time? What would you like to learn to do?
I have a list.
The war between the Confederation and Primans is at a tipping point. Loren Stone and the crew of Avenger know their leadership is really working for the Primans. The Priman leadership under Commander Tash has become corrupt and lost their way as well, according to the captured former Commander, Velk, still under house arrest in the company of the Fixer Garret Drayven.
The key players decide to risk it all in one last mission to end the war and bring peace back to the galaxy. Loren will venture into Priman space with Velk to bargain for a cease-fire with the Priman Council, hoping they will override Tash. Halley and Web hatch a daring plan to rescue the duly elected leadership of the Confederation and bring them back to Delos to relieve Senator Dennix and his cronies.
Neither Senator Dennix or the Priman Commander Tash plan to go without a fight.
This is the last of the serialized novels in my 6-book Birthright arc. I plan to write more, and in fact have a plot outline already in the works involving the whole gang as they settle into their lives after the Priman War.
First up, though, is the last book in the Out of Nowhere trilogy…
I had a brainstorm the other day and frantically started jotting notes down so that I might scout the internet later. Sadly, I was not the first to consider this possibility, and spent an hour surfing the many high-level nerd forums where people discussed this at length.
My idea revolved around the speed of light. Light may seem instant, but it has a speed limit just like the speed of sound. Where sound travels at roughly 700 miles per hour at sea level, light travels at around 186,000 miles per second. Yes, that’s pretty fast.
We’ve all heard a jet, fast car or train pass by, noise arriving in force only after it’s gone past. That’s the sound it makes catching up to it.
Light is the same way; it takes time to travel. Take our sun; it’s about 8 light minutes from Earth. Put another way, we’re seeing what the sun does 8 minutes in the past. Go outside and look at the sun right now. For all you know, it just blew up or was stolen by alien pirates. You’ll find out for sure in 8 minutes when the light that was emitted at that moment finally reaches us.
Scientists talk about learning more about the creation of the universe by looking through telescopes such as the Hubble, which is seeing galaxies that are thousands or millions of light years away. They could have fostered sentient life and collapsed into black holes last week, but we won’t know for untold ages yet.
So, how can I use this to my advantage? 🙂
What if I was to create a wormhole and travel to a point 250 light years from Earth? I’d turn around and look at the planet and would then be seeing the light that was emitted 250 years ago. I could view the Industrial Age, revolutions, countries being born, etc etc. All I’d need was a powerful enough telescope. Imagine if a computer could catch and record all the light that passed by and build for us an interactive world of the past?
This is a close parallel to an old Isaac Asimov short story I read years ago called The Dead Past. It’s about a government funded research project that allowed them to see a limited distance into the past. There was a catch, though, and an impatient professor finally found a way to build his own telescope. Caution: there’s a really fun twist ending, and I’m not going to spoil it for you. Imagine that; a twist ending in the 1950s!
I also turned my thoughts to the future, once again inspired by books and movies. The love of apocalypse and dystopia is still alive and well in modern fiction, but rarely do you ever see the long term run-out of events. Sure, the Walking Dead, Revolution, Falling Skies, The Last Ship, Maze Runner, and tons more deal with the plucky survivors of whatever cataclysm torches life as we know it, but it’s always pretty much present-day.
I always wonder, though, about what comes after. Imagine the zombies are all dead (again/for good), the planet is clean, people are ready to behave, all of that. Now what?
Few shows or books ever centered on rebuilding. But it begs the question: how hard would it be to reorganize a government, a ruling cadre? We put up with it, accept it as it were, because that’s what we all know. And I’m sure everyone complains about having our money taken via taxes, fees, surcharges, etc, and spread around in ways we probably don’t all agree with.
So what if you just spent years scraping by, toughing it out and managing to live through the apocalypse? And then one day a guy with some police, troops, etc, comes by and says “Good job not dying out there. Now, we’re going to need thirty percent of your stuff so that we can tell you how to go about your business once again”.
Would you tell the man to shove it? Doesn’t that sound a lot like Negan from the Walking Dead? Give me your stuff or I’ll beat you, says the villain. Give us thirty percent of your money or we’ll put you in jail and take it anyway, says the government.
Damn, makes me think longingly of invading aliens. Ahh, those were simpler times…
Today I found myself with a free day in Los Angeles due to a work switcheroo. I was left in town for the day with instructions to be ready the next morning.
What to do? Well, among a few other things, I went to the Petersen Auto Muesum. It is a wonderful place, and seems more like an art museum than a place where they roll out old cars for people to look at. They take this seriously here. The cars are on display as would be expected of a fine watercolor painting. The place isn’t cluttered; there is a separate tour available of the basement (they call it the Vault) where all the off-display cars are located.
I saw old cars, new cars, everything in between. The over-arching idea, though, was cars as art and inspiration. Sure, a car can be basic transportation that gets you to work and back, but it can be so much more! I’m going to steal the words from the inscription in the entry area on the third floor when I say that cars offer their owners a combination of freedom, utility and distinction. Few products in our culture have more purpose or meaning and even fewer can elicit an emotional response. Have you ever seen a car, or better yet heard one, and your day just instantly got brighter as you sported a big goofy smile?
Deep thoughts, right? As I said, this wasn’t just a warehouse with old cars pushed bumper to bumper. These were exhibits. There was a whole wall detailing the build process of a Maserati. I saw the available options, from leather to woods to metals to different carpets and all the other fittings. I think that if I were to buy a Maserati the process would best be served if I brought along a high-priced interior decorator. That’s not a bad thing, though. Think of the care and attention paid to a carefully built car that goes though a short test circuit with a professional driver, and is then lovingly wrapped completely before shipping for delivery.
Now imagine the irony of me arriving there in an econobox Toyota rental car.
It was every bit the soulless, spirit-crushing experience I expected it to be. That’s ok, in a sense, though; there is a market and need for cars like that. Toyota can crap out these things by the tens of thousands all day for all I care. But to me, much as there is a low (or boring) end, there is also a high end to the market. Hyper cars like the hybrid McLaren P1 I took a picture of, custom built and a marvel of design and engineering.
Not everyone appreciates this, of course. To many, a car is a box with 4 wheels that takes you from one place to the other. And that’s ok; we’re all different, and that’s what makes us humans so interesting. But to me, a car is more. It’s an expression, a statement. I’ve always been passionate about cars, and have owned a couple fun ones in my day. I plan to have another nice one again some day, an old muscle car. Anybody can go out and buy a nice new car, but if you can bring an old car back to life and customize it so that it’s unique in the world to just you, that’s something special.
Whatever drives you, (pun intended) I hope it’s with a passion. I’ve realized that we need something to be passionate about. Preferably, it’s our jobs, life in general, family, that sort of thing. But we need an outlet; there’s more to us as humans than going to work, writing TPS reports and then coming home to watch Dancing with the Stars. We should have something uniquely ours, something we’re proud of and that gets our minds off the day to day grind that wears so many of us down. We’ve all been there, suddenly the bearers of unexpected free time, and without any idea where to go with it. What would you do if you could selfishly claim time to do what you’ve always wanted to?
So get a hobby! It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Maybe you like knitting, drawing, working on cars, building computers, grown-up coloring books, collecting porcelain kitty figurines; who cares, other than you? You should have something that’s just for you, that stokes your fire and gets you excited and takes your mind off your job, bills, the leaking kitchen faucet and cat barf downstairs that needs to be cleaned up.
Live a little!
I was thinking about this after I celebrated my 40th birthday. I acceded to a minor midlife crisis and traded the minivan for a crewcab pickup. Well, it was was sort of something we needed to do, but the event seemed to coincide nicely with the occasion.
I didn’t do anything really out of hand like buying a Members Only jacket and gold chains, go skydiving, try to pick up a college cheerleader, etc. My wife would have really hated that last one, so a big no-go on that. Overall, pretty low key as far as I can figure.
I looked at my life: wife, kids, home, job, etc, and realize things are going pretty well.
Then my 16 year old cat walked past me and I realized; he is about as far back as I can go via memory lane in my adult life. We got him and his sister when they were kittens. Sadly, she passed away in the summer of 2014, but he’s still kicking and demanding to go outside all the time.
But the cats were one of the first milestones for my wife and I. We got them before we were married. We’ve changed houses, cars, furniture and possessions, jobs, had kids and more, but there were always the cats. I truly hope he has a few more good years left in him.
They say a midlife crisis is what happens when you evaluate your life (at the arbitrary but understandable age of 40) and see you’re lacking.
I can’t complain.
We’ve done things and gone places, tried to show our kids locations and people to demonstrate to them that there’s a really big world out there and that it’s not all about Pokemon Go and DS games.
I’d like to restore an old muscle car, a dream I have from back in 5th grade or so that I share with a few of my oldest friends.
I’ve recently begun the official wrap-up of the Birthright novels I wrote. I’m working on renders of the interior of one of the ships, something that’s honestly more for myself than anybody else. I’ll put them on the book website, but I don’t know that people much care what the bridge looks like. Book here.
I published another book before that, a novel about modern day America centered on a small town where the DHS as a tool of the government tries to assume complete control. Spoiler: it results in conflict. Other book here.
I’m also 20,000 words into a modern day thriller about a madman who has control of the last nuclear weapon on the planet. Small-town cop and big-city FBI agent race to stop the man and his plan to rebuild the governance of the world in his own image. Hilarity ensues. Well, not a lot of hilarity; hijinks and a few shenanigans mostly, but there’s room for humor in everything.
So, I’m not going to buy a Miata and start wearing loafers with no socks; I’m all good here and feeling normal and content. However, if you happened by my garage you might start to see the occasional old car part form a pile in a distant corner against the day when I have a vehicle to swap them around on.
New post here; who would have figured?
This one is not, however, writing related. Well, only inasmuch as it might keep me alive long enough to finish the sixth book in the Birthright series, I guess.
No, today I must speak about diets. I think we lead a pretty good lifestyle at our house. We work out, eat pretty decent, make the right gestures. Last month, though, we decided to do the Arbonne cleanse diet. I personally have a family history of cholesterol and triglyceride issues (thanks, parents!) and thought it would be worth a shot to see what a moderate change in diet would accomplish.
Short version: no dairy, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, salt, or ‘old school’ carbs. I mean potatoes, wheats, anything processed and altered. The grains are replaced by brown rice and quinoa (which I actually think is pretty tasty and versatile), we can eat anything green, chicken, red meat and fish, turkey in reasonable quantities. There are also shakes, one or two a day depending on whether your goal is weight loss as well as overall diet change. Oh, and almonds. Lots of almonds.
I’ll be honest; I travel a lot and it was very hard to get this thing going. Most hotels aren’t quick to offer up subs to the standard menu items. I eventually found microwavable bags of brown rice and quinoa plus little cans of chicken chunks (rinse well; they’re packaged in salt water but overall sodium is actually pretty low). Plus, it’s a pocket-pleasing alternative to offensive prices many hotel restaurants think they should be charging. I wasn’t perfect with this diet; I had spanish rice instead of brown rice once or twice, a chicken nugget that made me grumble a bit, and a few bites of our kids food to taste test.
We also did the 7 day cleanse. It was a special additive for a big jug of water. Lots of people complained about the initial taste, but we actually weren’t bothered by it. It tasted different, to be sure, but not bad. Add in a package of the fizz mix you get with your shipment and it tasted just fine.
So now the month is over and we’re both very well on track to continue. We make a lot of chili/fajita style foods, use almond butter instead of peanut butter, and are finding new recipes for meats and veggies on Pinterest all the time. My only complaint is cooking without sugar. I tried making bread and protein cookies, and both turned out pretty tasteless. I’m no Bobby Flay, but I’m pretty sure there’s a sweetener needed to made this work right, and the point is to not add extra sugar and all that.
The reason I wanted to post this to a blog is because I actually have some lab-test results to share. I see my doctor to check on my cholesterol, and my latest checkup was in the middle of the fourth week.
My HDL improved by 20 points. My LDL improved by 16 points, and my triglycerides went down by 30 points!
Yes, I plan to add back in a beer or two during my week, but overall I don’t truly feel put out by the diet. And let’s be honest; if your diet makes you mad and you absolutely hate it, you won’t stick with it, so what’s the point? I personally like to consider lifetime average here; if I truly make my effort in diet and exercise, then yes, I will have that Girl Scout cookie when they get delivered soon. Just not all thirty at a sitting.
So go ahead and try the diet. It might do you well! Better start buying almonds now, though!
I propose an idea. This country is obsessed with reality tv. From people with a litter of kids to misbehaving housewives to guys who made duck calls to men crawling over each other like crabs in a bucket to win a date with a woman, we apparently have no limit when it comes to this type of media.
I will admit to liking a single reality show in the history of the genre. It was out probably 10 years ago, and it was called Combat Mission. It can exactly one season on TNT or TBS or some other cable network. They took a bunch of SEALS, SWAT guys, contractors, etc, and teamed them up and made them run missions using real military MILES gear. It was awesome, but I suspect it failed due to no juicy interpersonal drama. These were professionals, and they always acted like it. They ran their missions, behaved well overall, and that was that. Halfway through the series, they started making them go to a ‘canteen’ at night: a big tent that had a bar and a cute girl to sling drinks. Except they would have a couple beers, then go back to their barracks. I seem to remember one guy getting a little mouthy, but his own team put him in his place. If pressured, I may admit to watching the first season of MTV’s Real World, when it was new and interesting and every cast member didn’t show with their own agent.
Anyway, I digress.
Let’s combine presidential debate with reality formats for something the country will actually watch and enjoy. My proposals:
1. A cook off. Everybody gets an hour to bake crab cakes, or maybe choose a regional dish from their home state.
2. Dance off. Macarena, Paso, who cares? Make them dance for our amusement!
3. Some sort of home improvement. Who can decorate the best bathroom? Who can build the best shed?
4. Lumberjack skills. Chainsaw and a tree stump= who makes the best tree stump carving?
5. Auto repair. Everyone has to try and rebuild a Holley carbeurator. No Youtube tutorials allowed.
Would showing skills in something that you cared about sway your vote? Or are we content with their abilities to promise us the most free stuff and say whatever needs saying to get elected?