Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Character Building

In my series on writing I seem to have been talking mostly about the marketing aspect of being a writer, something that I’m still a total amateur at, not the actual writing part of writing. So I’ll do a post on that.

In my first three novels I started out with a pretty good mental picture of my main characters and as the novels progressed those characters got more “real” as they reacted to the events around them. Sometimes a side character would start standing out as the story progressed and I would be developing them as the story went along, that is an exciting part of the writing process.

In the novel I’m working on now I ended up with the opposite happening. I had 20,000 words of different short stories all revolving around the same character. Sometimes he was the main character in others he was merely a side character. The stories where he was the main character were the most interesting (mostly) but he wasn’t very well defined. I figured he’ll get a character as he interacted with more of the strange characters in his town, 10,000 words later he hadn’t and I had to stop and try and figure out a character that I had already written a third of the book about.

I tried some of the character building techniques that writers talk about but they didn’t seem to work. Finally I got mad at him for not having a character and had his time-traveling future girlfriend yell at him about it.

When he had justify his lack of character I finally realized he did have a strong character, it was just totally opposite of mine, and most “heroes” in fiction. He strives for contentment, not happiness or ideals, he just wants to have non-complicated life. That makes for conflict as he and his time-traveling girlfriend are forced to deal with Devil Worshipers, a Succubus, Zombies, Demon possession, Vampires, and Aliens.

So to any writers who are struggling to understand their characters, my advice is to confront them and have them explain themselves. It will define them for both you and the reader.

Darrell B. Nelson

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Temper-Tantrum Tuesday: My saving the planet will not be shown

Ick, Yesterday I ran out of excuses for doing my part to save the planet. My house is under-insulated and I’ve known I had to get into the attic and add a layer of insulation for years. Unfortunately, insulation is about the worst DIY job next to plumbing for a homeowner.

Luckily there are a million excuses not to. If it’s too hot out working in the attic is bad. If it’s too cold opening up the attic will suck all the heat out of the house. If I’m having trouble breathing work in the attic will make it worse.

All these excuses were shot down yesterday as it was in the 50s and I finally recovered from my cold. So up to the attic I went.

I took some comfort in the fact that at least I could take some pictures of my work and share my misery on this site.

So dressed in an outfit I was sure that would take the fashion industry by storm, old stained jeans, a sweatshirt, face mask, goggles, and a baseball cap, I grabbed my camera and posed for a picture. Unfortunately, all the screen showed was a flickering black blob. So I don’t get to share my awesome outfit with everyone, or show the results of my hard work.

Still it was worth it as my heating and air-conditioning bills will be a lot lower this year. Now my house exceeds the recommended insulation value for my region with the walls being R-26 and the attic being R-43.

As a side note this is my 300th post.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: F** Sarah Palin

Recently the Healthcare bill was made into law over the Republican objections of “It’s too big” … “it will have us on our knees” … “your cramming it down our throats” seriously when have those objections ever worked?

After all the those objections failed, the queen of the teabaggers Sarah Palin, ex-half term governor of Alaska current um, nothing, put up a picture on her facebook page with the names of 20 Congressman who voted for healthcare in red districts targeted with gun sites. Oddly Bill Owens the Democratic Place filler from a district that hadn’t elected a Democrat since the Civil War, who Sarah “Tweeter Quitter” Palin campaigned against last year wasn’t in her sites. I guess she wasn’t up for a rematch.

Under the gun sites she said, “Don’t Retreat, instead – RELOAD”. Now she claims that this wasn’t a death threat that she’s just ignorant boob that has no idea about what the meaning of the words she uses are, I’m willing to believe that.

However statements like this are fueling the fire of Teabaggers who are looking for an excuse to be violent. So far they’ve focused their rage at 10-year old boys and Parkinson victims, but they say they are going to escalate the violence. Maybe target the seniors who will be able to afford their medicines under the healthcare act, or the babies that can’t be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.

I’ve read articles that say this is all the Democrats fault, as last summer they should have seen the idiot protesters at the town hall meetings and bowed down to the 5% of the nation that was trying to stop what roughly 70% of the nation wanted. Because giving in to violence always works.

Now these teabaggers who are complaining about taxes even though those that pay taxes are the beneficiaries of the largest middle class tax cut in history. The ones screaming “Baby killer” at people who pass a bill that will make it so people who make less than $50,000 a year won’t have face the choice of going bankrupt in order to have a kid. The ones who think activist judges have mind control powers that stop their kids from praying in schools. These people are threatening violence.

These people can point to all the Fox News polls they want:

They can say how Fox News covering an empty field that was supposed to be a teabagger protest but no one showed up is proof that the media is slanted against them.

They can spout all the stupid things they want, but when they start calling for a Civil War with the justification that God is behind them, they might want to remember one thing. God has always been on the side of the one with the larger Army, and the US Army is pretty damn big.

In closing I’d like to respond to Sarah Palin’s question, “How’s that hopey, changey thing workin’ out for ya?” To her I say, “Shut-Up Stupid, It’s working out fine. How’s that Governing thing working out for you? Oh yeah you quit that.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: The mighty Jupiter

In this series I’ve talked transforming a couple planets into Earthlike worlds, Venus and Mercury, but just transforming those, and Mars, would only give us the equivalent of two more Earths. For the human race to really expand we will need something bigger. I don’t want to be accused of thinking small.

If you take away the Sun then the Solar System consists of Jupiter and some stray stuff. Jupiter has two and a half times the mass of the rest of the Solar System combined. So the logical place to expand the human race would be Jupiter, or more precisely the Jovian system of moons.

Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto are the large moons of Jupiter that have a liquid ocean underneath an icy crust. Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury and has a surface area greater than the surface of the landmasses of Earth. Callisto is slightly smaller and Europa is about half that size.

Taken all together they have a surface area two and quarter the size of the landmasses of Earth and are within a million kilometers of each other.

The system offers resources that can’t be matched in the inner solar system. Jupiter has a vast amount of He3 an element thought to be essential for controlled nuclear fusion. It is almost non-existent on Earth and the Moon is thought only to have enough to supply humanity for 10,000 years. It also has sixty smaller moons and ring that can mined.

The major problem with these moons is they are in the magnetosphere of Jupiter so their surfaces have a very high level of radiation, so setting a colony on the surface would be tough. The solution is to bring the settlements under the ice, into the underground oceans.

Ganymede’s gravity is only one-sixth of Earths so going mile under the surface the water pressure would “only” be that of being 1,000 feet underwater in Earth’s oceans. This is the lower limit of military subs.

To build a underwater settlement like we build current subs would be way to expensive, however if the casing of the underwater settlements were made of something stronger like Buckypaper, which is 2,000 times stronger, the cost would go down.

As the Jovian system has nearly unlimited resources thanks to the many moons and nearly unlimited energy supplied by the He3 sweeping out the Jovian atmosphere by solar wind, the colonies there would soon be able to develop an industrial base that would dwarf anything we could build on Earth, or even the entire inner solar system.

By unlocking the riches of the Jovian system we could give humanity wealth beyond the dreams of Avarice, and that will lead to a fantastic future.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Hitting People’s hot buttons

“I don't want to hurt anybody or be offensive. But I don't want to not be me.”
Melanie Chisholm

In writing fiction there is a name for works that manage to offend absolutely no one: Boring.

It is especially tough not to offend anyone with your book jacket, as you have to reduce everything down to the simplest terms, which means using labels.

I managed to offend someone with my book jacket for “Invasive Thoughts” because I gave my main character OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and one of his symptoms was extreme touch phobia. This was a key point in the plot as he was dealing with a virus that spread through human touch.

In book I never called it OCD I just showed him reacting to all his obsessions and phobias, but on the book jacket I couldn’t get around that label.

OCD is an interesting mental condition that doesn’t effect everyone the same, some people with it will be deathly afraid to shake someone’s hand while someone else with it will be obsessed with touching and hugging everyone they know. (Hopefully they don’t join the same support group).

So when I was talking to someone with OCD about my book they got very offended that I linked OCD with touch phobia, since they were a self confessed “Hug-o-halic”.

What they were offended by was the stereotype that all OCD people are touch sensitive, which is a valid point. I explained how my character had many symptoms of OCD that I held him to firmly and some let him excel at his job and some were a curse, just like anyone else’s mental state can help and hinder them at times. His OCD actually made him more relatable as it showed off his struggle more than a so-called “Normal” person. I hoped by making him likable, at least I liked him, it would help people understand people who are a little “different”.

She admitted to me that she is a little sensitive about the subject.

So as a writer you have to be prepared to accidentally hit someone’s hot buttons, even the people that you are trying to sympathize with. But if you stay true to yourself in your writings these differences can be smoothed over easily.

Darrell B. Nelson

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Temper-Tantrum Tuesday: Nothing to bitch about

I know a lot of my progressive friends won’t agree but after our government has wasted trillions of dollars and countless lives, this week I don’t have anything to bitch about.

A healthcare bill passed the house that makes access to minimal healthcare a basic right of all Americans. Could it be better, of course, but now that it is established that people have the right to healthcare future amendments will only make it stronger not weaker.

Other things I can’t bitch about.

Sarah Palin is bitching about how the healthcare law will mean death panels run by Alaskan bloggers and who knows what else. Who cares she is now irrelevant, she can tell all the lies she wants but now that the bill has become law even her followers will be able to see through her bullshit.

Rush Limbaugh promised to move to Costa Rica if this bill passed. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. He won’t do it since he never keeps his promises but for months he’ll have to explain it.

Hundreds of teabaggers stood outside the capitol building screaming “Nigger” and “Faggot” at Obama and Barney Frank and showed just how powerful those words are, they have no power what so ever. Watching how those words no longer intimidate the person they are directed at but just make the person who says it look like a fool, brought a tear of joy to my eye.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) Screamed out “Baby-Killer” on the house floor. I can’t wait until he has to explain his vote against a bill that was based on the Massachusetts plan that has dramatically reduced the rate of abortions in that state, even though unlike the federal bill it uses state funds for abortion.

Mitch McConnell (pictured above) and the Republicans have vowed to run on the platform of repealing, “Obamacare”. This should be good. It is mathematically impossible for them to get enough Senators to repeal it in 2010. Campaigning to allow insurance companies to turn people away for pre-existing conditions and to not let young adults stay on their parents insurance isn’t the greatest platform. But calling the plan “Obamacare” for the next 3 years will make that name permanent. Imagine if Social Security was called “FDR Security” and Medicare was called “LBJ-care” it would be tough for the Republicans to get people worried that the Democrats are planning on cutting those. So in 2016 when they try to run on the platform that the Democrats want to cut your “Obamacare” people will laugh at them.

So I can’t bitch today because the fearmongers have shown themselves to be ineffective and for the next 7 months they can have their rallies where they chant “Nigger, Baby-Killer, and Faggot” all they want. By screaming those words at rallies for the last year they have taken away all the emotional impact of those words. By showing what fools the people who use those words are they have allowed us as a society to move on.

By letting their hatred and bigotry show they have accidentally helped defeat hatred and bigotry. I can’t bitch about that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Deceptive Headlines

On Wednesday I surfing the web and I stopped by Cracked, and ran across this article “6 subtle ways News Media disguises bullshit as fact.” by, Sephira and thought it would make a great topic for Shut-up Stupid Sunday.

I thought it would be great if I could find a comparison of the results between deceptive headlines vs. normal headlines somewhere. Then I realized I could run my own very unscientific test right here on my blog. So I launched a series of Deceptive Headlines to see what happened. They were:

“Peter Graves and Cory Haim Die after Invasive Thoughts is Published”, A true statement but the two facts have nothing to do with each other.

“Dr Phil Plait linked to Autism Epidemic” A jab at the anti-Vaxers. Confusing hyperlinks and scientific links.

“Billionaires go out of reach of the Military” Sounds scary, but it’s really a good thing.

“Texas declares War on the United States.” Just a touch over-dramatic.

Some of the results where surprising but mostly it just confirmed what I thought.

Stuff I expected:

1. I figured my views would take a hit, and they did. I lost about twenty hits a day. I figure this means 20 viewers find my writing more credible than the “World Weekly News” and I am flattered by that. So the obviously Deceptive Headlines turned them off (sorry it was all in the name of research).
2. Comments went down. It’s tough to comment on trashy headlines.

Stuff that surprised me:

3. I got a lot more traffic from google, about 13 hits a day more. I wasn’t expecting that but it does make sense. When doing a google search the headline and a paragraph of the text shows up so the crazy headlines catch people’s eyes more than a normal headline.
4. Google adsense revenue went up. Instead of my usual 1 to 2 cents a day, the crazy headlines brought in 4 to 5 cents a day. That was with a slight decrease in views. Obviously Google’s bots like crazy headlines more than normal ones.
5. Digg (at least for my account) is dead. Crazy headlines used to get some notice on but I didn’t get a single hit from Digg. I’m thinking the few people that still check out Digg are so used to the tabloid style headlines nothing fazes them anymore.
6. The trashy tabloid style writing is fun.

Armed with this totally unscientific data I need to change my rant slightly. I was going to trash the people who use deceptive headlines to get people to their sites, and newspapers, but between the increased revenue (for me its not much, but for sites that make real money a doubling of that is hard to resist) and the fun it is to write that way, I’ll change my rant.

If you are going to use deceptive headlines to get people to your site, or newspaper, either state the real facts up front in the first paragraph so your not out and out lying, or have fun with your bullshit. I’ll give some examples in my new feature, “Manipulative Monday” my first post “Massive Ford Recalled” were I will talk about how I remember seeing my father-in-law’s F350 Pick-up for the first time.

But if you are using deceptive headlines and tabloid style to substitute bullshit for facts, then I say, “Shut-up Stupid, that is nothing more than lying.”

Darrell B Nelson

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Texas declares War on the United States

The Texas Board of Education has proposed changing the history books to get rid of Thomas Jefferson and the separation of church and state, state that the US Government has been taken over by Godless Communists, and to show the importance of the inaugural address of Jefferson Davis on all the Presidents that followed him.

They are basically deigning the founding of the US and stating that the Confederacy Lost the Civil War. As a Kentuckian (The state where Sherman Launched his famous march) I would like to think that we razed the south better than that.

If you are wondering about the weird headlines I’ve been using this week that will be revealed tomorrow.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Billionaires go out of the reach of the Military

Recently the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference was held and the organizers had a bit of a surprise. People showed up.

Suborbital research looks at the atmosphere higher than weather balloons can reach but lower than spacecraft can operate. This area is referred to as the ignorosphere. The reason this area has been ignored is in the past it was too expensive to study. Sounding rockets cost millions of dollars to reach that area.

Now, with billionaires Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic offering flights for $200,000 and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin expected to make flights to that area for roughly the same cost this area will be opened up to researchers with normal budgets.

These flights will also offer researchers 3 minutes of micro-gravity commonly referred to as zero g. Researchers can perform small scale experiments in the few minutes of micro-gravity without having to spend millions and wait years to take them up to the ISS.

This is a win-win for researchers, as the small-scale experiments will offer data that can be used on experiments on ISS making the very expensive research more efficient.

As space tourism gets more popular, more science can piggyback on these flights leading to a fantastic future.

BTW: Many people are probably wondering about the crazy headlines I’ve been using this week. The reason for them will be revealed Sunday.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dr Phil Plait linked to the Autism Epidemic

Since doctors in the US began testing children for Autism the number of children diagnosed with Autism rose dramatically compared to when children weren’t being tested.

With this rise in the number of children being diagnosed with Autism came a rise in people spouting out crazy reasons for the rise, this has lead to rise in sites that debunk those claims.

One of my favorite sites for debunking those claims is “Bad Astronomy” hosted by well known astronomer Dr. Phil Plait. This site has many links you can follow to the CDC and other medical sources where you can get real information on Autism, as an alternative to the crackpot ranting that gets covered in the news.

Is the rise in Autism linked to the increasing number of websites that debunk the anti-science claims of people like Jenny McCarthy? "Come and see our kids," says McCarthy, "Why won’t the CDC come and talk to the mothers, talk to the families? Then tell us there isn’t a link."

Skeptics say the rise in the number of children diagnosed with Autism is a result of doctors looking for it in children, because if you look for something you are more likely to find it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Peter Graves and Cory Haim die after “Invasive Thoughts” is published.

Many people wonder what the connection is between the deaths of a long time drug user (Cory Haim) overdosing on drugs, A aging actor dieing of a heart attack (Peter Graves), and the publication of Darrell B. Nelson’s first novel, “Invasive Thoughts”.

You can pick up “Invasive Thoughts” here. To try to find the connection.

The Mainstream Media will not report this as Many People Agree That Facts Are Twisted by a Deceptive Media After a Long Day of Drinking with Whores and eating cheese.

Writing Wednesday: An Even Better Rejection

“We have read your manuscript with boundless delight, and if we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of a lower standard. And, as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition and beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity. ”
From “Rejections on Display”

I thought I had gotten some pretty good rejections for my works as I have moved from just getting form letters, to getting form letters with a quick note, to getting personalized rejections. I was getting a little cocky thinking I might be the skinniest kid at fat camp. Then I came across that rejection letter at “Literary Rejections on Display” and I realized I’ve got a lot more work to do before I can consider myself the king of rejects.

Darrell B. Nelson

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Temper Tantrum Tuesday: Healthcare for the GOP

Over at CAP News they unveiled the long awaited GOP Healthcare Plan, The Torture Option. Adding the Torture Option might get some of the more moderate Republicans, ei: Scott “I never said I was a Republican” Brown (R-Ma) to support Healthcare reform, but to get the middle of the GOP and Ben Nelson (D-Greed) to vote they’ll need to go further.

They could tie it into the Second Amendment and have gun ownership be a requirement to buy health insurance through the Federal Exchange.

To get the full Public Option people would be required to own a pick-up, or at least be photographed in front of one.

New rules could be made so prescriptions would be written on the patient’s hand. That would appeal to the Sarah Palin supporters.

Free OxyContin for radio hosts would get the Rush Limbaugh fans support.

But Bart Stupak (D-Alternate Reality) would still hold out, the only thing that would appeal to him would be to make it so not only wouldn’t federal funds not be allowed to purchase health insurance that covers abortion like the current bill, but not allow any US currency to be used for women’s healthcare. Guaranteeing that infant mortality rates would skyrocket getting us out of our current 30th in the world and push us even lower.

For the extreme right wing anyone fleeing the Conservative Paradise of Mexico would be ground up and used for free lunches for Wall Street, that would get their vote.

As for Sen. Bunning (R-KY) we could attach a rider that bans “Little Green Doctors” from attending Political Events that his wife doesn’t attend, so he doesn’t have to worry about her being attacked by them again.

That should get the current GOP members to vote for it, but the teabaggers would complain that it was being shoved down our throats with only 100% of congress voting for it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Pro-Lifers who want more Abortions

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am biased towards Pro-Choice. So I am asking Pro-Life people to bear with me when I explain how they can help more couples “Choose Life” to use their saying.

Right now our healthcare system is grossly tilted against any couple that wishes to “Choose Life” and I will use a possibly fictitious example of how.

Let’s imagine a couple has been happily married for several years, have a descent life, live in a small apartment, have a 5-year old car, and the husband has a job that pays $30,000 a year.

Making $30,000 a year it would be stupid for them to buy health insurance for $250 a month when if they had a major health problem and had to have surgery the very most they could lose in court would be to have 15% their net income above the poverty line taken or $131 a month. They decide paying $250 a month to protect $131 a month is a fools wager.

This couple favorite activity is to go for walks in the local parks, their favorite park is a beautiful nature research center that is almost unknown to the public, and they know the times that it is practically deserted.

One gorgeous spring day they go for their walk at a time when no one is in the park. They walk a mile into the woods and get a little high on the oxygen given off by the blooming plants, the scents of the new flowers and the shear beauty of nature.

The wife decides that only one thing could make this day more perfect, she leans up against a tree and steps out of one leg of her pants and smiles at her husband. Neither one of them was expecting this so they didn’t bring along a condom, but the shear beauty of the day and the chance to make a loving memory that they will never forget overtakes all other thoughts and they make love.

Flash forward a month and the wife has noticed that her period hasn’t come. They buy a pregnancy testing kit even though she already knows the result.

Now this loving couple has a choice to make, if they decide to have a baby they are too responsible to let it happen without proper medical treatment. Their income is too high for social services to help and health insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions like pregnancy.

They know that the $17,000 to $25,000 cost of childbirth is something that will drive them into bankruptcy. So the cost of childbirth means their credit will be ruined and they will have to take on the additional expense of a child at the same time as they have their income reduced.

The lower standard of living is something they could take for themselves but the idea raising a child while their finances are knocked for a loop leaving their lives unstable is something they can’t bear.

The other choice is to pay $600 and get their old life back.

As far as “Choosing Life” goes the scales are greatly tilted against that choice. The current healthcare system in this country makes a mockery out of the idea of giving couples a choice.

If the healthcare bill passes this couple will be looking at completely different options.

If that happened after the healthcare bill kicked in here is the choice they would face.

The couple would have government-subsidized insurance that they could upgrade to cover the additional expense of pregnancy. They might have to pay a few more dollars a month to get the optimal pregnancy plan so their out of pocket expenses would be $463 to $523. The cost of an abortion isn’t covered under the healthcare bill so that would remain at $600 or more.

Under the healthcare bill this couple will be able to “Choose Life” or not. Under the current healthcare system this choice is made for them, and it is not pro-life.

If you are truly against abortion the choice is obvious you should support the healthcare bill in congress and urge Congress to take up an amendment to force the insurance companies to have the insurance plans that get federal subsidies to make the cost of Childbirth at or lower to the cost of an abortion. Then when you talk about choosing life, you will be talking about a real choice, not one stacked in the favor of abortion.

So to all the people that say “Choose Life” and are against the healthcare bill that will make this a real option I say, “Shut-up Stupid, you are working to defeat your own goals.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: The Impossible: Possible

Since before World War II increasing a nations production, growing the GDP, and oil consumption have been tied together. So when the demand for oil overtook the world’s ability to produce oil the world’s economies were brought to their knees.

This close correlation between GDP and oil consumption is the justification for the billions of dollar in subsidies the federal government gives oil companies. It was the whole basis of the neo-con economic platform.

That’s why this article on projected oil demand caught my attention. The US oil consumption is expected to decline by 0.3% while GDP is expected to rise 1.1%.

This continues the trend from last year.

Basically, America is growing, slowly, and recovering from the Great Recession while decreasing the amount of oil we use. To put it in the old terms it is as if we expanded the amount of domestic oil production by 1.5% every year. This is roughly the expected amount of oil from ANWR, the proposed Alaskan drilling project.

The proponents of drilling in Alaska and other places that are less likely to generate meaningful amounts of oil or, “drill, baby, drill” have argued that it is impossible grow the GDP while reducing oil consumption. Well it looks like reality paints a different picture.

But wait it gets better, the Federal programs that helped spur this oil savings, Cash for Clunkers, and Cash for Caulkers (lol, I love that name) cost less than the subsidies given to the oil companies.

So not only does encouraging Green Technology work to decrease our demand for oil while letting the economy grow it costs less than supporting the old way.

If the US continues to support Green Technology, we can pull out this recession growing our GDP while decreasing our oil use. Having our economy’s growth no long dependent on oil consumption will lead to a fantastic future.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Classic Themes

Yesterday’s Post “The Rise of the Machines” I hit upon a classic theme in Science Fiction, how will society deal with the eventual end to the economics of scarcity?

Four of my favorite works based around this theme handled the problem very differently.

George Orwell (1984):

Orwell had Big Brother (and the leaders of the other 2 nations) deal with the problem of mass production able to produce so much more than the people could consume by having and endless war with each other leading to a declining standard of living for all. With this declining standard of living even the elite had less material wealth, but got power over other people instead.

Aldous Huxley (Brave New World):

Huxley envisioned a world where the masses were dumbed down through genetic engineering and conditioning to except make work and the upper class was conditioned to seek shallow pleasures over creativity and sense of accomplishment. Summed up by the words “Community, Identity, Stability”.

Movie: Harrison Bergeron

The movie version was based on Kurt Vonnegut’s short story of the same name. It expanded on theme that Vonnegut expressed in the short story which is to address the problem of overproduction the US Government made everyone equal. Gifted athletes would have to wear weights so they couldn’t show up the “Average” person, Smart people had buzzers in their ears to stop them from thinking too hard. The purpose of this was to eliminate envy since every one was equal there was no reason to envy anyone. It also destroyed any desire to create.

The Star Trek Universe:

Productivity was near infinite and labor was nearly a thing of the past, so mankind focused their energies towards the betterment of all beings in the Galaxy while being committed not to interfere with them.
It is an interesting, if self-contradictory look at the post scarcity world. The noble sentiment expressed in Star Trek worked because they rarely looked into the mirror and showed what life was like on Earth in this period, when they did they barely looked beyond Star Fleet to show what life was like for anyone who was encouraged to be creative in school only to find out they couldn’t get into the famed Star Fleet Academy.

As the time is coming soon when the economics of abundance overtakes the economics of scarcity I like to look at these solutions to the problem and try to envision my own solutions.

The great thing about a classic theme is there is a nearly infinite ways of looking at the solution in fiction as the 4 very different works I mentioned point out. Hopefully my contribution to this theme will make some people think about it, and as a writer that’s all I can hope for.

Darrell B. Nelson

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday Temper Tantrum: The Rise of the Machines

The image of the machines we’ve built to do our work rising up and taking over, is a classic Sci-Fi plot that is presented in a scary but unrealistic way, but what if its already happening?

I’ve just been over to Martin Ford’s website, and he didn’t say it directly but he is basically saying the machines are taking over.

Automation is increasing productivity without needing more workers so for the last 10 years the workforce has shrank. Basically if this trend continues, and there is no reason to believe it won’t, the cost of making any product and most services will shrink to the point where they are almost but not quite free.

The problem is there will be no reason to hire someone to make something or provide a service, so the vast majority of humans won’t be able to buy these goods even at a cheaper cost.

In the past we’ve always stayed ahead of the productivity gains with new innovations that transform the economy. I truly believe we can do this again, by ending this recession with a green revolution, end the next one with opening up Space, but what about the one after that?

Given the unrelenting force of the automation’s push for greater productivity eventually we won’t be able continue our current economic system if we even can now.

The idea of the free market deciding how to use resources will break down as goods become almost but not quite free. We will soon need to decide on a path for humanity to take.

The increasing productivity of Automated Systems has been seen as the light at the end of the tunnel, signaling humanities freedom from manual and repetitive labor, but that light might belong to freight train that is coming right at us.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Cramming healthcare down our throats

The latest propaganda that is being pushed in the Mainstream Media is that President Obama trying to push a Nazi, Commie, Roman (not yet, but they need a new bad guy) healthcare bill that no one wants down the throats of the American people, through the use of sneaky parliamentary tricks.

First off, the polls show that despite the healthcare industry spending over a million dollars a day on lobbying and more than that on direct attack ads, as well as the mainstream media giving much more time to opponents of healthcare reform, the public’s opinion of the need for healthcare reform hasn’t changed it remains in the high 60 to 70% in favor of reform.

As far as the public’s approval of the Senate Bill that is being debated right now, it is roughly 50-50. But most of the people who disapprove of it think it doesn’t go far enough.

Second, those sneaky parliamentary tricks were to pass the bill with a majority in the house and 60% in the Senate, and now they want it to have an up or down vote. So this sneaky parliamentary trick is to allow the vote over the objections of Senators that represent 33% of the American people. The Republicans objecting to the bill obviously feel that the framers of the Constitution never intended the people to have a greater say in government than the special interests.

Finally, as far as healthcare reform being quickly crammed down our throats, Teddy Roosevelt pushed for healthcare for all Americans, and the push continued since then and this specific bill has been debated for over a year. As far as over a hundred years of debate is “cramming something down our throats” even a bear during hibernation would be able to chew, swallow and digest it during that time.

The bottom line is at the turn of the last century it was decided that companies could no longer poison people and the federal government could oversee the production of food to insure Americans weren’t being poisoned so that companies could make a profit.

At the beginning of this century it is time to stop healthcare industries from denying basic healthcare to Americans so they aren’t being killed so that corporations can make a profit.

So to those in the media that say healthcare reform is being crammed down our throats, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, reality took a hard left hand turn while your hands were off the steering wheel.”

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: Love and Blimps

The planet Venus, named for the goddess of love, with its Carbon Dioxide atmosphere that is 90 times the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere, its Sulfuric Acid clouds, its balmy 860 degree temperature, seems like a lovely place to raise a family.

The idea is not as improbable as it sounds. Although the surface of the planet is pretty hellish, the “upper atmosphere” isn’t all that bad. Just 50 miles above the surface of Venus the atmospheric pressure is close the atmosphere on Earth. That height is above the sulfuric acid haze and into the Sulfuric Acid Clouds.

Because CO2 is heavier than the Oxygen-Nitrogen atmosphere that us humans prefer breathing the artificial atmosphere would actually work as a lifting gas to help keep a blimp afloat in the upper atmosphere, helium balloons could take care of the rest of the lift needed to keep a colony afloat.

The helium balloons could be deployed on 10-kilometer tethers so that they reached completely above the Sulfuric Acid Clouds and hold solar panels providing the floating cities with power.

If the cities were built with a lightweight material like Buckypaper or even Carbon Composites they could easily float in this semi-hospitable region.

Once the cities are established they could have giant greenhouses on board, taking Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and make Oxygen, not only for the inhabitants but to release back into the Sulfuric Acid clouds. The Oxygen would combine with the Sulfuric acid and create Sulfur Dioxide, a global cooling gas, and water.

With enough of these floating cities we can begin the process of cooling down Venus.

Finally we could use the solar power to compress and freeze the CO2 in the atmosphere and send it in space, well insulated of course. With a sizeable amount of frozen CO2 or dry ice in orbit, we can send it to Mars, a place that needs more atmosphere.

As we decrease Venus’s atmospheric pressure and temperature the floating cities would start to sink towards the surface until (in a few hundred years) they will land on a planet that has been terraformed to be very similar to Earth.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Hard Science Fiction vs. Fantasy

I was having a conversation with a friend about my book, “Invasive Thoughts” and he asked me, “How much time did you spend researching all this?”

It wasn’t something I had really thought about, but I did actually spend quite a bit of time on research, a few hours a week. If you add all that up over the course of writing the book it comes out to over 100 hours or a college class.

There are two reasons I did this.

First, I like to research and learn stuff. If I weren’t looking up stuff for the book, I’d be looking stuff up because I found it interesting.

Second, I feel it makes for a more effective story if the basis for the horror is grounded in the real physical world so that as the reader is drawn into the story they wonder, could this already be happening?

It is something I like to do and I figure if I get scared researching the topics and I can effectively convey that it makes for a good book.

At the other end of the literary spectrum is fantasy. I’ve tried to write a two fantasy tales, one was a Vampire story, the other about a 20-foot tall Kitten terrorizing a kingdom. I never finished either because I’m horrible at writing fantasy.

I get too caught up in the details, like I had one of my characters mention about the Kitten, “The weak nuclear forces must be stronger in this dimension for the kitten to still process it’s flexibility.” Unfortunately, that got me thinking of the nuclear interactions within my little world and I started trying to map out a new theoretical physical model for my universe and describe it in under 500 words in an entertaining way. Needless to say that was a week of my life I will never get back.

Just because I can’t write fantasy doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate “good” fantasy tales. A good fantasy tale has the elements of hard science fiction but instead of using real science the author “makes their own”. This can work well if the author has thought out what the strengths and limitations of each element they add to their world.

Some where in the middle of these two genres is the world of Speculative Fiction, or the Space Opera. Star Wars and Star Trek are the best know examples of these.

In the Star Trek universe they often need to cheat on the physics, but when they do they give their cheats real limitations, like the transporter only has limited range and can’t be used at warp. The laying out exact limits on their cheats makes them more real, and that’s why Star Trek geeks (like me) get so furious when they break their own rules.

For me, writing a fantasy tale is harder than a hard science fiction as you don’t have the strengths and limitations of an element mapped out and the author has to figure it out on their own, or else the reader will get pissed off if a magic sword can do something in chapter 2 but can’t in chapter 10. Or if Yoda can sense the Dark Side of the Force anywhere in the galaxy, but not if Sidious has set-up an office next door to the Jedi headquarters and put up a plaque saying, “Sith Lord and Company, LLC”.

I do admire fantasy writers who can manage to make a self-consistent world, that follows it’s own rules and stays true to those rules. It’s just not something I can do.

Darrell B Nelson

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Temper Tantrum: The Loonies are running the Asylum

Senator Jim Bunning (Insane, KY) showing how much brains he has left

Senator Jim Bunning is no stranger to this website, in fact one of my original posts was about him, “Senator Bunning, Kentucky’s other crazy Senator” 1/10/09. So I am no longer surprised at anything this loon does. What I am surprised at is that over 1 million people can lose their unemployment benefits for a month and construction on most Federal and State Highways can be brought to a stop by this certifiably insane person.

That last comment was not an ad hominen attack, he really is insane and it has made enough news that he has already announced his retirement so he can spend more time obstructing his family.

I can understand the rational of how the senate can be brought to a screeching halt by 41 Senators, if not abused and used for everything, it can make sure the minority has some input into bills and aren’t totally ignored like the Democrats where between 2002 and 2006.

If Senators had any interest in serving the people the filibuster could be used wisely. The Republicans represent less than a third of the country, but that third still deserves some say. The Republicans decided not to use it that way and have caused havoc and they will have to see if they get rewarded for it or not.

But when a lone, Insane, Senator who is so unpopular in his own state that polls showed him losing to the Plague, can stop one of the few things that the other 99 Senators can agree on to keep the country from going back into a Great Depression than something is seriously messed up with this country.

Which begs the question why is Bunning doing this? Is it a deep philosophical ideal that the nation would be better off if the economy crashed again? Is it that he thinks “Little Green Doctors” will attack his wife at events she doesn’t attend?

Nope, He’s trying to hold the million plus people on unemployment and the federal highways hostage unless there is a tax break for the 400 wealthiest Americans (only them). Although I’m sure he is worried about the little green doctors as well.

The two Republicans who are competing for his seat Rand Paul and Trey Grayson have announced their support for his bonehead move.

If they really want to support him they should turn this into a campaign slogan, “The marginal increase in wealth for 400, outweighs the needs of the millions.”

I’m sure with that slogan they’ll have overwhelming support.

Darrell B Nelson