Archive for January, 2009

John Shirley, Black Glass (2008)

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I read Black Glass, by John Shirley. It’s not for those that like their reading easy, or their music and beer lite. Follow the link to the review.

Read my review of John Shirley’s Black Glass

Cold – Too Cold

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Jim Shannon lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Lately he has been in the process of adopting a homeless cat that he and his wife have named Boots. In his last post he took a picture of the weather channel showing the temperature forecast. It was -31° Celsius, which is -23.8° Fahrenheit. That’s cold.

I thought it was bad here with the mercury dropping below 10°F some nights.

Boots prefers to be outside sometimes, and jumps off of their balcony – 12 feet into the snow. When I had an apartment on the second floor, we had a cat who would jump down, but not when the temperature was cold enough to freeze you in a few seconds. I shouldn’t be worried as the cat has pulled this before, but still!

I hope Boots is all right.

Also, if I lived in a place that went down to 23.8 below zero, I would seriously consider a move several hundred miles southward. I don’t mind it when it is cold, but this is COLD!!!!!!

Blog – ejim

H-1B visa layoffs

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

A senator from Iowa has told Microsoft to layoff the foreign workers first and keep the red blooded Americans.

As a programmer who has suffered layoffs and cuts in pay because of lower paid H-1B visa workers from India and China, I am watching this Issue, closely.

I have seen first hand how difficult it is for H-1B workers to get and keep a job. It is amazingly hard for them to get their green card. I sympathize with them. Working side by side with my Chinese and Indian friends, I understand their problems. They are truly Americans in spirit, fleeing poverty to come for a chance at the American Dream. Most say they’ll go back someday, but the only time they ever do is if their visa’s run out.

On the other hand, I have worked in shops where I was the only American born programmer out of dozens. The schools in the U.S. tend to produce graduates suited for flipping burgers and nothing else. I am largely self taught, augmented by advanced college courses that I paid for myself. I currently do not know anyone born in America, who has my background and can write programs. (I know of them, but they are several orders removed from me and I do not interact with them.)

There is a part of me that thinks that H-1B visa workers should be laid off before any Green card or citizens are laid off, but there is also the part that understands what it means to these pilgrims to come here and embrace the American Ideal.

Schools should concentrate on producing technically competent graduates, and business should be not laying off any H-1B workers until there is someone to replace them.

Senator questions, prods Microsoft on inclusion of H-1B workers in layoffs

The Ring is Destroyed, finally

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

I’ve spent the last two weeks tramping through Middle Earth. (Listening to mp3s on Justine’s iPhone.) Gollum just fell into the crack of doom and I’ve had it with Hobbits for another year. I have read or listened to LOTR probably over 100 times. There was a time, 20 years ago, that I know I passed the 50 count just on reading. At that time I obtained the tapes and listened two or three times a year as I commuted to work. I since found the audio in MP3 format.

I can get back to reading, again. I have rediscovered the simple pleasures of reading since I started taking the bus in the morning. My six months’ bus anniversary came and passed without celebration (I was still bummed about Christmas.)

Monday I start reading Black Glass, by John Shirley. This is billed as Shirley’s Lost Cyberpunk Novel. I like Shirley’s Science Fiction and I am a Cyberpunk kind of guy. Last Year I read Shirley’s Demons, and a couple of months ago I read an old copy of City Come a Walking by Shirley, and I thought it was excellent. I should reread his Eclipse books, since it has been a few years. I went through the link above and got a signed copy of Black Glass at the regular price, although I was raped on shipping. Media mail should have been about $1.50 not $6.50.


Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Erica gets all of these alerts from It is a network of Yahoo groups mailing lists that people use to give stuff away, or in my case, get free stuff.

Once a day I get a forward from here with some tempting bit of free stuff. Mostly the good stuff is gone before she answers the message, but we’ve picked up one or two good things.

This is a Wanted message that appeared on Freecycle. Erica thought it was interesting, and so do I.

Wanted to keep or borrow.

Halloween decoration with motion sensor (the kind that moves or makes noise when you approach it).

I need to teach my husband a lesson about smoking in the attic behind my back. He quit but is having little relapses when he thinks I am sleeping.

This ought to scare the s_ _ t out of him. = )

It doesn’t sound like he really quit. All he did was stop smoking when his wife was looking. I am not sure the motion sensor will be much help.

Weekly Science Updates

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

I have a group of about 20 websites that I click “open in tabs” every morning in order to get my news fix. I just added the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Weekly Science Updates to the list. This is mostly an extract from news sources, but has some interesting articles and factoids.

My other science morning links are Space & Astronomy News, Uncertain Principles and Dynamics of Cats (yes it’s a science blog). The rest of the morning links are blogs, job searches, general news and Li’l Abner.

Star Finder 3C 273 PGC 41121 – Quasar

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

I’ve been getting hits on my star finder site for this object. It turns out that this is a Quasar. It is the most distance object that an amateur astronomer can view with an inexpensive telescope.

That tail going down and to the right is 200,000 light years long.

Star Finder 3C 273 PGC41121


Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Every once in a while I apply for a job at NASA. It is one of the few places that I would take a cut in pay to join.

I’ve hear that they will be doing some hiring soon. NASA certainly will get some economic stimulus funds in the coming year. Unfortunately it seems all the jobs are in Houston or DC. I have yet to see any telecommute NASA jobs show up on the list.

I am usually not worried about my current job, but I am reading in the news about some cities laying off contractors, so I should be thinking about my next gig.


Character Sheet

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

I’ve cleaned up and spell checked the character sheet system that I wrote. I’ve added some historical and social items that E. Jim suggested. It seems to be be the most comprehensive sheet that I’ve been able to find by googling. I did not include things like “favorite color” – there has to be a limit.

I have an idea that a page describing how the character relates to the story could be useful, but I think that it may be superfluous, since the author already has the characters’ rolls in mind before any character sheets are started.

I also added a way for users to save their sheets in a little database (I use my own db system – not mysql).

Now I have no excuse. I am forced to actually use this to create the character that was giving me trouble in the “Reefs of Jupiter” story I was writing. I want to have it finished when J. Erwine starts reading for the New Martian Wave. I hope to have three stories with space exploration themes soon, and I am hoping he’ll accept one of them.

Character Sheet

Nyack Burger Hop

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

The old Lincoln dealership in Central Nyack, near the thruway overpass is now a burger joint. The burgers look good. It’s too bad that I gave up beef nearly a year ago.

It must be lunch time, because my mouth is watering and my stomach grumbling.

I guess I’ll go out and get a salad.


First Taste: Nyack Burger Hop

Eric on TV (cable news 12)

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

My friend Eric, who plays guitar with Frankie D. & the Boys, had his 15 seconds of fame when the local cable news channel featured him playing at one of the Nyack inaugural balls.

If I had known he was going to be there I might have been able to sneak in without paying the $30.

Is that one of Larry’s Fender Telecaster guitars?

YouTube – Frankie D. & The Boys @ The Nyack Center’s Inaugural Ball 01/20/09 – News 12 Hudson Valley Story

Inauguration Technology

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

I tried to watch the Inauguration Speech on the computer with streaming video and the tech failed miserably. Either the flow from the feeds was overloaded or else the local office network was. In any case I could not get anything but a word here and there.

I would predict that in four years we might have faster lines with more technology.

I did read the speech and I thought that it was very good. I am not sure how Obama can bring about the change that he is talking about. The lawmakers are still the same old con artists that were in last year. Obama can lead, but will they follow? I certainly hope so.

Fictional Character Profile

Friday, January 16th, 2009

A couple of years agi I started writing an automated character sheet to document fictional characters. I wanted to change the character in a story that I am writing so I found it and finished it.

It collects a bunch of information about a character and even does a couple of psychological profiles. It produces a single page character summary that you can copy into your story work in progress pages.

I did it very quickly and it has no formatting. Some of the information it collects is not that interesting, and I keep thinking of new things to add. I am hoping that users will start sending me ideas for features so that by the time I get around to polishing it up, it will be a real useful tool.

One thing I have to do is make a way to save the character for later retrieval. Right now all the information is kept in a cookie, which expires in a day or so.

Character Sheet

Old Nuclear-Powered Soviet Satellite Acts Up

Friday, January 16th, 2009

A 1987 nuclear device orbited by the Soviets is spewing radioactive debris. This has to be a good source of story ideas. I can see a modern techno-thriller based on this, or even a golden age type story. The solution to this problem must be technological, but an equally intriguing political aspect might be good for a story.

I would write it from the viewpoint of the cosmonaut that is sent up to investigate and boost it to a higher orbit.

It would be extra nice if there were an alien curled up inside the satellite, nibbling on the insulated wiring.

Old Nuclear-Powered Soviet Satellite Acts Up