Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Rewrites

“You know when you rewrite something it just gets better and better.” Ed Wood.

In the movie “Ed Wood” Ed Wood said that line, it’s not clear if the real life Ed Wood ever said those lines or if he ever rewrote one of his movies.

Most of my literary heroes never did rewrites, famous names like Ed Wood, Isaac Asimov and so on. Unfortunately I’m not sure I want to have a real life them.

Ed Wood became famous for pushing the line of bad so far it became a masterpiece and he never made money from his films.

Asimov didn’t receive a dime from his “Foundation” series until he became famous and Doubleday bought the rights to it and re-released it, he couldn’t get a major publishing house to look at it and ended up going with an early author mill for his first four and now most famous books. The only reason he became great was his shear volume. He averaged 14 books a year as well as a short story and science article every month. That’s over 1.5 million words a year. I write a lot but that’s way beyond what I could dream of doing.

So, I won’t follow in their footsteps and will take the job of rewriting seriously. Unfortunately I am really bad at it.

With my latest novel, “The Pizza Diaries” I wrote it out and had the perfect 65,000-word novel. It was so perfect I couldn’t see how it could be improved. I sent out a query letter to thirty agents and was promptly ignored. I couldn’t figure out how they couldn’t love my masterpiece so I had a few people read it and got their feedback.

They all told me the first chapter was the worst or second worst chapter in the book. “But it makes the book have a nice circle with the beginning and the end being in the same spot.” My mind screamed. Then I wondered if that was important at all to the book. I realized it wasn’t.

So I wrote a new first Chapter that sets the tone for the whole book.

The second thing they told me was I did a horrible job with the female lead, which they felt really took away from the book as her romance with Brian was the most important plot in the book. “No it’s not,” My mind screamed again, “She’s just a side character.” Then I read it over again and I had several chapters of them alone, so it was the most important part of the book even if I didn’t mean it to be.

So I rewrote most of those Chapters and deleted a few and put in totally new chapters, to lessen the amount of time she is in the book, but give her character more depth when she’s there.

A few of the comments were gender specific, guys sympathized with Brian’s reaction to the Vampires and girls couldn’t figure out what he was on about. So I punched that chapter up and now it’s tied for my favorite chapter in the book.

So now I have an 85,000-word novel that is absolutely perfect that I will send out to a different batch of readers, so they are not influenced by the original copy, and hopefully get some totally unexpected feedback about where I tried to go one direction but the story makes it look like its doing something else.

So for a 65,000-word novel I’ve just done a little over 30,000-words in rewrites. Hopefully I’ll get better and need to do fewer rewrites on my future novels.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Geeks Rule

Fred Phelps and his insane followers are no strangers to this blog, I had talked about them before last year.
Now they decided to pick on the wrong group. Comic Geeks. They protested the annual Comicon for some reason. What they didn’t realize is Geeks are better at getting attention then they are. It was like threatening to start a knife fight in a gun shop.

The Geeks counter-protested by chanting “What do we want?” “Gay Sex.” “When do we want it?” “Now!”

Here’s a few pictures:

So here is what I have to say to anyone who plans on starting a battle of wits with Geeks, “Shut-up Stupid, we Geeks are funnier and smarter than you, you will be out-flanked so quickly its hardly funny. Geeks rule so don’t fuck with us!”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: Big Science


I’m writing this post because a several thing have entered my mind at the same time from wildly different sources so the ideas aren’t as focused as I’d like them to be. Hopefully after writing them down I’ll come back in a month or so and make a polished post on these ideas.

I read a few things recently that reminded me of the importance of “Big Science” (Government run research spread out over the thousands of colleges in the nation), one was a post by a teabagger that asked what Government Research has ever turned into consumer products? I answered off the top of my head, Jet Airplanes (completely researched and developed by the Air Force then turned over to private companies). Computers (Originally purchased for the US Census, then IBM got the contract to use them for the Nazi Holocaust, then the US Navy needed them smaller to fit on ships, making them room sized but powerful enough for the government and large corporations, then NASA needed one small enough to go to the moon and the foundations of the modern PC was born). The Internet (Started as a DARPA experiment). Communication Satellites, launched by Government Rockets. GPS developed by the Air Force and the technology was given away so they would have a civilian backup. The list can go on and on.

The reply was the standard, “La, La, La, I can’t hear you.”

The second thing that got me thinking of the importance of “Big Science” was Stephanie’s post on Ask me Anything about why Space Probes cost so much.

Her post didn’t go into this but the research that goes into making the Multi-Million Dollar probes later come back to Earth, so to speak, in the form of new products. For instance the research into radiation-hardened computer chips for extended Interplanetary Missions gets put into chips for new Satellites, new Nuclear Power Plants, new Medical Equipment, ect. It’s these extreme technological feats that chip away the costs of new products. While the research in these extremes nearly always pays off in the long run, a private company can’t put billions of dollars into developing products with a 30 to 40 year payoff. For instance if you were very, very farsighted in the early 50s you could spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year building your own private Internet. By the mid-90s you’d be a Trillionaire, but in the 40 years in-between you’d be a crazy kook that no one would invest money with.

The final thing I read on this subject was Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World Revisited”. In that book he examines how the world of 1958 was moving towards the different futures that he and Orwell had written about.

One example he used was the Soviet Union, because of the science race between the US and the USSR the Soviets had to use different methods of control for different classes. For the general population the more Orwellian methods of fear and forced labor worked, but for the technological class they needed to move more to the “Brave New World” model of control. With the techies the highly ordered, no sharing of ideas, isolating people is highly counterproductive. Science and Technology flourish in an environment that allows the free exchange of ideas. So in the former Soviet Union while the people in general were under terrible oppression the scientist and engineers were given the freedom that was associated with the western world.

It was this freedom that eventually led to fall of the Soviet Union when Heinlein suggested to Reagan the “Star Wars” program. In order to keep up with the US in making this impossible project the Soviet Union would need to vastly increase its technological research. The difference between the two classes of citizens would need to be so obvious that it would lead to open revolt.

One of the biggest benefits that our current system of open research using Government Funding to pursue scientific research across thousands of campuses is the freedom from oppression as research into new frontiers needs a place of open exchange of ideas.

By increasing commitment to scientific progress, we not only get the consumer products that make life better, we get a society that encourages the free and open exchange of ideas letting its citizen’s minds to be free and open. This freedom that “Big Science” encourages leads us into a Fantastic Future.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Writing Wednesday: A new Beginning

(As I explained in yesterday's post I had to write a new first chapter for my novel "The Pizza Diaries" I value any feedback especially about the Characters. Would you like to read a 280+ page book based on this character? If not any specifics would help.)

Chapter 1: The Root of Affection

Brian didn’t like the look on Bernie’s face when he hung up the phone. After working at the Pizza Joint for 3 years Brian knew from the night manager’s expression that he was about to give him bad news. He had been hoping to start cleaning up the carryout/delivery restaurant for the night as it had slowed down enough for Bernie to let the two insiders and one of the delivery drivers go home for the night. He knew from the look on Bernie’s face that his plans for getting out early weren’t going to happen.

“I’ve got a delivery for you.” Bernie forced a smile as he hit the finish button on the computer making the labels for the pizzas print out.

“Strange customer or out of our delivery area?” Brian asked automatically doing the insider job of placing the labels on the pizza boxes. He knew from the expression of the younger man that it was one of the two.

“Both.” Bernie said as he walked over to slap out the dough for the pizzas, “It’s out to the Brandon Estate. The place is owned by Edwin Brandon, the brother of the former mayor, he still has a lot of power on the City Council so when he orders we kind of have to go. You know how it is with small town politics.”

“Any relation to Reggie Brandon?” Brian asked hesitantly after hearing the last name.

“I believe it’s his Uncle. Chief of Police Reggie Brandon was the old mayor’s son.” Bernie said, “Is that a problem?”

“No, It was a long time ago I’m sure he’s forgotten it by now.” Brian said not wanting Bernie to connect the dots and learn about the incident that happened before he left town years ago.

“That’s good, his uncle lives a few miles outside of town and orders pizzas from time to time, I’m surprised you haven’t had to go out there yet.” Bernie continued as he put the sauce on the pizzas, “The other drivers say he’s a bit strange, and if his instructions aren’t carried out to the letter he doesn’t tip. This time he wants you to go all the way back to the greenhouse rather than the main house, who the hell knows how far back that is. So when you add the two together it’s a bit of a time waster, but if we don’t deliver he tells Chief Brandon and Brandon starts pulling over our drivers out of spite.”

“You’d think the City Police would be like Sheriff and Troopers and like the Delivery Drivers.” Brian commented, “Just think of all the drunks with munchies we keep off the streets.”

“Chief Brandon doesn’t look at it like that.” Bernie told him, “To him we’re just one more group he can kick around. That guy must have been seriously tormented in school or something to get his kicks off abusing his power against delivery drivers.”

“Yeah, he was for a year.” Brian told Bernie as he got in position to place the pepperonis on the pizza. Bernie would have been in 3th or 4th grade when Reggie and Brian were seniors in high school, so he wouldn’t have heard about what happened during their senior year seventeen years ago.

“You went to school with him?” Bernie asked throwing the cheese on the pizza and sliding it over to Brian.

“Yep.” Brian said without elaborating as he put the pepperonis on the customer’s pizza.

“But you’re not going to talk about it, right?” Bernie asked knowingly as he started slapping out the crust for the next Pizza.

“Well I could but it makes me look like a total dick.” Brian told him finishing up the pizza and putting it in the oven before Bernie could ask more questions.

“You couldn’t have been that evil before you started here.” Bernie told him putting the toppings on the second pizza. “With all the stuff you won’t talk about someone would think you were a evil mastermind before giving up your criminal empire to deliver pizzas.”

“It wasn’t that exciting, more like a vengeful administrator than a fully accredited evil mastermind, most of the time anyway.” Brian joked in order to avoid his best friend’s probing, “but it’s better to stand in silence and let people think you’re a fool than open your mouth and prove it.”

“Okay, suit yourself.” Bernie smiled then got back to business, “You should be back right around closing time. I’ll have Kyle stay late and clean up for you.”

“Thanks, tell him I’ll make it up to him.” Brian told him even though it was unnecessary the delivery drivers always backed each other up.


The customer lived pretty far out of town and even taking some of the shortcuts that he had learned over the past three years of delivering pizzas it still took Brian 20 minutes to get out to the large mansion.

“An exquisite pre-war mansion with definite curb appeal.” Brian couldn’t help evaluating in his old real estate vulture mode when he pulled up the circular driveway and stopped in front of the wrap around porch, which had an elegant second story balcony.

In the dark it was hard to evaluate the property, but Brian’s trained eye could make out how the windows had low profile storm windows over the old lead glass windows and he had spotted the large cable and telephone lines on the pole outside the mansion. It had decent Internet inside that would make quite literally a million dollar difference on the value of a mansion like this.

If the inside were as well maintained as the outside the place could easily flip for over $10 million. If Brian were still in the game he’d run a soft hit on the owners credit to see if it was possible to force him to sell. He had worked deals that size in the past, but not often.

Brian put aside all his old real estate thoughts and looked around for the greenhouse. He spotted a lit path going to the back of the house and saw the greenhouse a few hundred feet behind the main house. The outside was well lit, but oddly all the inside lights were out. It didn’t feel quite right but Brian thought about all the trouble this family could cause for the Pizza Joint and headed down the path anyway. When he got to the greenhouse he knocked on the glass door and tried to look in but could only see vague shapes.

“Come right in, boy.” Brian heard a voice come from inside the glass structure.

Normally Brian would just yell, “Pizza” and wait for the customer to come out, but tonight his mind was on how Bernie told him the customer was very strict about drivers following instructions, so he went into the dark building. He walked about 5 paces when the lights came on blinding him.

“Dinner Audrey.” He heard the man yell.

Brian looked to his right to see an enormous orchid with a stem over 6 feet tall, the flower bulb on top was larger than Brian’s head.

Brian was too shocked to move as the orchid wrapped a root around his shoulders and the enormous flower bulb shot towards his head. The bulb slowed at the last minute to gently rub against Brian’s cheek. He could have sworn the plant was purring.

Brian used his free hand to reach up and softly stroke the flower. It responded by wiggling back and forth and rubbing up against Brian. It was definitely purring now although Brian couldn’t see where the purr was coming from.

“Well, That didn’t go as planned.” The owner of the greenhouse said.

“You figured the plant would eat me, didn’t you?” Brian asked.

“Well um,” The owner stared at the ground, “She likes meat.”

“You’ve been too afraid of her to get close enough to know she loves attention?” He asked as he slowly stroked the attention-starved plant, the old real estate agent in him noticed that there was a phone right next to Audrey, a plus for an outbuilding.

“I thought she’d swallow me whole.” The owner confessed, “I was planning on using a stray cat or dog to test, but I couldn’t do that to a poor defenseless animal.”

“So you thought you’d try a delivery driver first.” Brain grinned as he stroked Audrey’s bulb.

“I figured no one would miss a pizza boy.” The old man said, “I mean they are easy to replace.”

“She’s too loving to do that.” He turned to address the purring plant, “Aren’t you?”

“Look this was just a…” The owner started.

“The pizza is $15.85 and under the circumstances I think a good tip is order, don’t you?” Brian told him pulling out the pizza.

“Okay,” The owner said sheepishly, “Here’s forty is that good enough?”

“Yeah,” Brian said disentangling himself from Audrey’s loving roots, “That’s fine, Just give her a good petting from time to time.”

“You’d better appreciate this, boy.” The old man growled, “I warn you if you mention this to anyone I can make your life a living hell.”

“Maybe.” Brian said as he handed him the Pizza and took his money, being careful to avoid Audrey’s affectionate roots. “But my life has been shot to hell so many times that I could be hell’s tour guide.”

As he was walking back to his car Brian could hear the man saying, “Sorry Audrey I didn’t know you liked to be petted, there, there…Audrey your roots have me awful tight… Audrey what are you doing?? Audrey stop that…”

Brian stopped on the path and briefly debated turning around to see if everything was all right, but he figured if Audrey had decided to eat the man it served him right. Not paying attention to a sweet plant like that, also he hated the fact that he was leaving Kyle to clean up for him so he needed to get back to the Pizza Joint.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Temper Tantrum Tuesday: Missing the forest for the trees

Every once in a while everyone makes such a bonehead mistake, which is so big that even people looking at it from outside can’t identify it, they just know it doesn’t quite work. That is what I did with my novel “The Pizza Diaries”.

I thought I had something that agents and publishers would snap up. I honed my query so that most people who saw it said they’d like to read the book, I had first chapter an interesting short story in itself, I’ve queried enough that I know all the agents little quirks and personalized my query for them. And I got back form letters or no response to it, even from agents that have quickly replied with personal notes to me in the past.

So what did I do wrong? The very first thing in writing a book. I noticed that when I came across this post. How to Hook Your Reader over at "A Book Inside".

I’ve saved that post and will refer to it for every book I write from now on.

I compared it to my original first chapter:

1. Establish who, what, when, where and why.

I established that my hero was a Pizza Delivery Driver, um, that’s about it.

2. Ascertain what kind of story you are writing.

The book is a funny urban fantasy idea story about a Delivery Driver who runs into all sorts of strange monsters in his job, I started off with a science fantasy romance piece.

3. Let the reader care about the character(s).

In the first chapter my hero is swept up by events that he, or anyone else, can have little control over. As a short story it works as the reader can see themselves being pulled along in that series of events. As the beginning of a book it sets the tone that hero is just being led along by events out of his control.

4. Set the tone of your book from the beginning.

I started the book with the idea of having a guy live in a city where all the cliché monsters of horror books lived and he met all of them by delivering pizzas to them. He took it all naturally which made for a funny surreal feel to the entire book.

My first chapter was the only humorless chapter in an otherwise funny book and the only chapter where the hero isn’t in some sort of control over the crazy things going on around him.

So by picking the wrong chapter to start with I did quite a few amazing things, I turned an Idea book into an event book. I turned the weak B plot into the A plot forcing the original A plot into the background so the little details leading up to the finish were overlooked. And I turned an interesting and funny character into a wuss whose actions are drowned out by the crazy things going on around him.

Immediately after reading Cindy A. Christiansen’s post I had to do a facepalm as I did the exact opposite of what she recommends.

I’ve written a new first chapter that I will post tomorrow which A) is funny B) Gives insight into the main character and C) Moves the comic relief character from the end to a place where she gets more attention, which she needs.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Unemployment Benefits

The Senate Republicans and Democrat Ben Nelson (no relation and I’d like to sue him dishonoring my last name) have stalled the effort to extend unemployment benefits, going against what has always been done during times of high unemployment.

Here is how unemployment benefits cushion our economy.

A laid off worker gets the $300 per week and uses it to pay bills and buy household items, rather than being homeless and begging for change. Which keeps them from being a larger economic burden than the $300 per week.

They then spend a large part of that money locally, buying food and household items, at the local supermarket. Roughly a third of that money goes to labor costs for the store, the clerks, stockers, and all the other people needed to keep the store running.

These people then spend that money on their own household as most of them live paycheck to paycheck with little savings. So the unemployment benefits of others are literally keeping them employed.

This money works its way up the economic pyramid, with the clerks and retailers being dependent on the unemployed getting benefits, and manufacturers, restaurants and small banks being dependent on the retailers, and the upper end being dependent on them producing real goods (even though the big banks are still manufacturing fake money based on nothing).

So by stalling the paying of unemployment benefits the Republicans and Ben Nelson are kicking the base out from under the economic pyramid, which will make the whole thing come crashing down.

So to them I say, “Shut-up Stupid, any arguments you have for denying people unemployment benefits don’t stand up to any economic wisdom at all.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Temper-Tantrum Tuesday: Debt Lawsuits

I just read this article from the New York Times Automated Debt-Collections lawsuits Engulf Courts about how computer software has automated the process of turning over debts to the civil courts.

Collection Lawyers do this because they know when someone gets into a spiral of debt that they go into depression and are unlikely to fight a court battle. That’s why 90% of the collection suits go unopposed. If you are faced with a lawsuit for a credit card debt chances are it was filed by computer process and here is how to fight back.

In order to sue someone under contract law, there needs to be a contract. It sounds silly but the credit card companies don’t keep track of these so often they won’t have a contract filed with the original complaint. A lot of states have softened this rule for credit cards but they still have to provide some evidence from the original creditor of the terms and conditions that where in place when you got the card.

The second thing for a lawsuit under contract law is a statement of how much is owed. Again this sounds silly but a lot of these collection lawyers don’t include a copy of the last billing statement, or if they do send a billing statement the amount they are asking for doesn’t match that on the billing statement.

Third they are not allowed to charge any fees not agreed on in the original contract. If they do it is a violation of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and you can counter sue for $1,000. This is particularly helpful if the debt is for a small amount, as the counter suits can grow larger than the original.

Finally, the complaint must be in English. This is where the automated system hurts the collection lawyers.

If you get a summons look it over for the first three things, if they aren’t there or in statements that the “Least Sophisticated Consumer” wouldn’t understand, file a response asking the case be declined for lack of evidence. They will have to file a response. This is the first time a lawyer actually gets involved.

Because they have grown so accustom to the computer doing all their work the response might have grammatical problems like, “Document A clearly state:” State, in this case, is the plural possessive of say, so you have the right to demand they produce the other, non-existent, document that they are referring to.

When you show up in court the lawyer will try negotiating with you, because they have based the lawsuit on the assumption you won’t show. As the judges are being overwhelmed by silly lawsuits these days they tend to be nicer to the defendant and if you can show reasonable cause that they should produce the documents you ask for they will probably tell the collection lawyer to produce them, which they won’t be able to do.

If enough people start fighting these automated lawsuits it will become too expensive to file a lawsuit on every little credit card debt, and they will go out of business.

I am not a lawyer just a former Security Broker and Insurance Agent, this shouldn’t be construed as legal advise.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Problems of Scale

If you are new to this blog, you most likely found it looking for “Peak Oil” or “Abiotic Oil” as I have written about both using my experience as a former securities broker in the oil industry. The disaster in the Gulf has increased awareness of both these topics, and helped spread a lot of misinformation about these topics around the web.

Before the Gulf tragedy my most popular series on this blog was my “Shut-up Stupid Sunday” Series, were I debunk popular misinformation being spread about the world, it’s only natural at some point the two would meet. So here is a look from a former industry insider on some of the misinformation being spread about this tragedy.

Myth #1: The amount of oil coming out of BP’s well proves America (and the world) has plenty of oil.

This is a problem of scale, most people who haven’t spent years studying oil consumption (and many who have) can’t wrap their heads around just how much oil our civilization consumes. I will try and put this in a scale that people can use.

We consume roughly 85 million barrels of oil a day. If this oil was actually put into barrels and the barrels were laid end to end they would wrap around the Earth one and a half times.

Compare that to the BP oil disaster. It is currently gushing out between 100,000 to 150,000 gallons of fluid a day all of it is deadly but not all of it is crude oil. Of this fluid roughly half is natural gas condensate, natural gas compressed into a liquid and 15% to 20% is liquefied sand, so roughly a third is crude oil. For ease of math let’s say one-third is crude oil or 42,000 gallons. Which seems huge, and it is until you compare it with the amount of oil we consume.

A 42,000 gallon a day well is 1,000 barrels a day, or the same as the top 5 producing oil wells in the oil fields I worked and if BP hadn’t cut corners and built the well properly it would be a very, very profitable well, but how much would it effect the world’s oil supply? Not much.

The 42-gallon oil barrel is based on dimensions of 1.5 ft by 3 ft by 1.5 ft. So putting the 1,000 barrels of oil into barrels and laying them end-to-end they would stretch 3,000 ft, or a little over half a mile.

In other words it is the difference between what would take the record holder for a round the world flight 12 days, compared to what I casually stroll in 10 minutes every morning.

In order to have the US achieve oil independence we would need 20,000 wells the size of BP’s broken well.

Myth #2: The ocean will absorb the oil.

This is the other end of the spectrum the people who look at how small the amount of oil coming out of the broken well compared to the size of the ocean. It is a drop in the bucket, however it doesn’t take many drops of oil in water to be lethal.

Oil in water is lethal to most life at 11 parts per million, so every day the oil from the BP spill is making 4 billion gallons of water lethal. So the oil spill kills off most life around where it touches. The life that remains is the oil-eating bacteria, which uses all the oxygen around it to eat the oil. Making the water unable to support life.

To make it worse, the natural gas that is flowing out of the well reacts with oxygen in the water combining to drain the gulf of oxygen in a process known as marine dysoxia.

Finally, the natural gas that is coming from the gulf is never pure natural gas and has large quantities of hydrogen sulfide, which also drains the ocean of oxygen.

It was a combination of the build up of Hydrogen Sulfide and Methane that drained the oceans of oxygen leading to the Great Dying 250 million years ago that killed 95% of marine life.

So although the amount of oil and natural gas released by the well is small relative to the ocean it is incredibly lethal to marine life.

Myth # 3: We need to continue to support deep sea drilling.

The Federal Government supports the Oil Industry with over $30 Billion in subsidies to drill new wells. The reason given for this is to maintain oil domestic oil production at 5 million barrels a day and not have it be reduced by 1% a year. This isn’t true but lets pretend it is.

The $3 Billion dollar “Cash for Clunkers” program saved roughly 730,000 barrels per day or 0.2% of our consumption. So if similar conservation programs were given the money we give the Oil Industry in order to reduce consumption we could hypothetically reduce our consumption by 2% a year. Even if they are only half as successful as the “Cash for Clunkers” program that would give us the same results as subsidizing the oil companies without the environmental risk.

Normally I end these little debunking rants by telling the people who spread these myths to “Shut-up Stupid” hence the name of the series. However this time I am going to end it with a little story about when I was confronted by something that I just couldn’t grasp the scale of.

I was driving through Indiana in a rainstorm and up a head a saw a huge black object. I thought the middle of hundreds of miles of cornfields was a silly place to put a skyscraper. I asked my wife if she knew of any skyscrapers that were built in the middle of nowhere, Indiana, she did not.

I drove straight into a category 3 tornado because my mind could not accept the scale of what it was seeing.

The people who look at the Gulf Disaster and say it shows we can drill our way to energy independence are going through the exact same thing that I went through as I drove a Chevette into one of the deadliest forces of nature. Their minds are rejecting the sheer scale of the amount of oil we consume.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: Robotic Surgery

Earlier this week my Grandfather, who is 93, went to the hospital due to complication due to gallstones. Luckily, thanks to advancements in minimally invasive surgery, the doctor’s were able to remove one of the stones and drain off the fluids causing the problem. At this point it is looking like he should be able to heal on his own and hopefully doesn’t have to go in for another surgery.

Thirty years ago this would not have been possible and the choices would be full surgery, which is very risky on someone his age, or a course of treatments to suppress the symptoms and hope his body recovers on its own.

That got me thinking about where surgery will be in thirty years.

The latest trend in surgery is Robotic Surgery. As it is still in its infancy stage it is great for some operations and bad for others, it takes a very skilled surgeon to operate the robots and at the moment there are fewer fully trained surgeons than machines. Just like in the 1980s there weren’t enough fully trained surgeons to do the number of minimally invasive operations demanded. As the number of surgeons trained to do minimally invasive operations grew, it became just one more option and surgeons could determine when it was best and when it wasn’t.

The same will happen in the Robotic Surgery field and the robots will become more specialized. Advances in technology will make the robots even more useful.

The advantage that minimally invasive and robotic surgical techniques have over traditional surgery is they cut through less good tissue to get to the problem. So naturally the smaller the instrument used to cut into the body the better.


As anyone who has read this blog knows I am a huge fan of carbon nanotubes, atoms of carbon forced together to make long tubes of single molecules. These have the strength to be used to control the robots as they make their way through the body and they can also transmit optical and electrical impulses to replace wires. Using the nanotubes themselves to build smaller operating robots will also make for smaller opening in the body to do the surgery.

As the robots get smaller they will be able to reach more places in the body to operate on with less damage to healthy tissue.


Biochips take advantage of the complex chemical reactions that happen in living cells and combine them with research done in the semi-conductor field to make tiny but powerful sensors. Having Biochips on the end of a surgical robot would allow the surgeon not only to see what the problem is, but also allow them to do all the testing that a it normally takes an entire hospital lab to perform. They would be able to do this on the fly and perform tests right down to the cellular level to see which cells to remove and which to leave alone.

DNA computer chips

IBM has recently made computer chips that use DNA as scaffolding to grow on. This discovery makes it possible to create computer chips less than a quarter of the size they are now.

Having smaller computers means the robots can handle more of the functioning of moving through the body without having to transmit data and receive instructions from the central computer. Things like compensating for Brownian movement and other factors, letting the surgeon concentrate on the operation itself.

As all these technologies come together in the next few decades surgeries that currently risky and dangerous will be able to be done on an out patient basis. That will lead to a Fantastic Future.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Monday, July 5, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday (a day late): Glenn Beck and Thomas Paine

Last year the Teabaggers tried to use Guy Fawkes as a historical hero for their cause, because nothing says freedom from large government like someone who tried to have the Catholic Church restored to power over England. Everyone knows the Catholic Church is so against centralized power and authority.

For some reason these Guy Fawkers didn’t get their point across.

Now these Teabaggers and Guy Fawkers like Glenn Beck are trying to use Thomas Paine as their historical hero. If you think about it this makes a little sense as Thomas Paine was considered the most radical of the founding fathers, and Beck is considered the most insane of Fox News Blabbermouths. And like every thing Beck says if you don’t think about it, it makes even more sense.

So on the day after Independence Day I’ll look at how Paine and Beck’s philosophies compare to each other.

Beck: (912 Project) I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.

Paine: “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistant that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.”

Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, t renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as ameans of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter.”

Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.”

We can safely say that Paine and Beck are on opposite sides here.

Beck (912) The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.

Paine: "For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever"

Not quite the same.

Beck (912 Project) If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

Paine: "An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."

Not quite the same.

Beck (912 Project) I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

Paine: "Pay as a remission of taxes to every poor family, out of the surplus taxes, and in room of poor-rates, four pounds a year for every child under fourteen years of age."

"It is painful to see old age working itself to death, in what are called civilised countries, for daily bread... pay to every such person of the age of fifty years ... the sum of six pounds per annum out of the surplus taxes, and ten pounds per annum during life after the age of sixty... This support, as already remarked, is not of the nature of a charity but of a right."

There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it."

"Create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property."

I can’t see how the two can be farther apart.

So to Glenn Beck and all the Guy Fawkers and Teabaggers that follow him that are trying to use Thomas Paine as an historical idol for your desire for inequality and power of inherited wealth, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, Paine believed in the opposite.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: Out of Failure

Hayabusa space probe might not have returned with solid samples of an asteroid but it is still an achievement in space technology.

The idea behind the probe was to have the parts build by several Japanese firms pushing the edge of technologies each individual firm thinks it can make a market for in commercial spaceflight.

The entire mission was a test for many new technologies with science being the lucky recipient if things went right. Using all these new technologies at the same time things were expected to go wrong, and they did. But enough things went right that they were able to bring at least some vapor from the asteroid back to Earth to study.

If you look at it as a test flight for all these new technologies it was really successful as these companies can pull out there plans and see what went wrong and fix those for JAXA’s 2nd Hayabusa mission to test an asteroid for water and organic matter. That way entirely new things can go wrong.

As scientists experiment more with Ion engines they will get more reliable and can be used for more and more space missions, and that will lead to a fantastic future.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts