Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
February 17th, 2009

Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, July 2008

Last year F&SF had a giveaway to bloggers of a free magazine. I finally got to it and the review is at:

Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, July 2008






February 12th, 2009

Jimmy Rogers

I like this guy. I read his book (about his motorcycle trip around the world). I think he is very smart, but I don’t always like his opinions (or else I don’t understand them).

This is great rant about the banking system from 2/11/2009.

The key here is that Jim is shorting American Stocks, which means that he is sure that things will get much worse before they get better, and Jimmy is often right about these things.






February 12th, 2009

Baen Memorial Writing Contest

Baen’s is having a short story contest. Up to 8,000 words that shows near future SF. Prize is publication in Baen’s Universe at current (pro) rates. Free entry. Electronic only (rtf attachment). Submit by April 1, 2009.

WHAT WE DO WANT TO SEE:
Moon bases, Mars colonies, orbital habitats, space elevators, asteroid mining, artificial intelligence, nano-technology, realistic spacecraft, heroics, sacrifice, adventure.

WHAT WE DON’T WANT TO SEE:
Stories that show technology or space travel as evil or bad, Star Wars type galactic empires, paranormal elements, UFO abductions.

That’s my kind of story. I have several that, if I ever finish the damn things, will fit right into this.

Breaking into a pro market by climbing out of the slush pile is damn near impossible. The contest will insure that at least one of us struggling writers will make a pro sale.

Baen Memorial Writing Contest






February 12th, 2009

Eliza

I found an archive of old games in a disk that I had from the says that I ran a BBS. Eliza was a popular demonstration of limited artificial intelligence. The version that found is very limited, but is still an interesting idea.

I converted the program from GWBASIC to JavasScript. I think I got it to work OK, but I can’t really tell.

Eliza is a Freudian therapist who answers questions with questions. It should, if you play along, lead you to reveal your deepest thoughts and ideas and guide you to greater self understanding. I, of course, am not a Freudian, but lean towards Jung. Jung was into story telling.

You can add this you your own page. Just grab the code and paste it into your blog or web page html.

<script language=”javascript” src=”http://www.cthreepo.com/eliza.js” type=”text/javascript”></script>

I am working on the classic text version of the game Trek. I played this game for hours back in the day.






February 12th, 2009

Fountain of Mysterious Space Dust Found

There is an interesting article at Space.com about a star surrounded by a red rectangle of dust.

This is interesting because my Star Finder program using Google Sky API shows the star quite nicely framed with the dust cloud. People have been using my site to see the star.

It is numbered HD 44179 or SAO 151362.

According to the database that I glommed, the Visual Magnitude is 8.8 and it is a type B8 star.

I am thinking of making a Stars in the News Blog.

Fountain of Mysterious Space Dust Found






February 12th, 2009

The Annual 1978 World’s Best SF ed. Donald A. Wollheim

I just finished this DAW 1978 annual. I really liked Joan Vinge’s Eyes of Amber. The rest of the stories were just not that memorable.

Read the Review






February 10th, 2009

A new kind of viral marketing

I get lots of spam, mostly for my older email addresses. I get at least 200 a day. Sometimes it makes it into my regular mail, and twice today I have received a spam message that is not really a spam message.

The email says it is a joke. It involves an old lady and her dog and cat. The trick is that the joke is unfinished. The email promises to tell you the punch line if you email the unfinished joke to 10 people. The payload is a spam link at the end off the message.

There is no way that you will ever find out the punch line. By the time I received the message it had gone through a dozen emails. Figuring that out of the ten forwards, only 4 will continue to forward it, it means that more than a million people read the email, and the spam link that went along for the ride.

Chain letters usually promise bad luck for breaking the chain, or else promise huge wealth. As such they are flawed. People recognize them for what they are. This letter only promises a good laugh.

Genius! Everyone will want to know the punch line. No one ever will, but they will pass the message along so that they can have at least a chance of finding out how it turns out.

I think I will research the perfect internet joke – a little dirty without being obscene, involving a puppy, a baby and beautiful woman. I’ll have a link to FreeNameAStar.com in the message and a million people will see it.

If you get my email, be sure to pass it along.






February 10th, 2009

Newsweek: Growing Rich by Blogging Is a High-Tech Fairy Tale

This guy, who had lots of hits, never made any money. In his best months with more than a million hits he made about a grand. I have made more than that on my harmonica blogs in some months.

The thing is that blogs that do not focus on a specific segment of the market do not make any money. I make money on the harmonica sites because advertisers want to advertise on harmonica sites. Harmonicas, the most popular instrument in the world, are big business. The blogger in the Newsweek article wrote about Steve Jobs. There is no focused market for Steve Jobs. No advertiser thinks that they can sell their product to people interested in reading about Steve Jobs. Without the tight link of content to advertising, there will be no ad revenue.

The one exception that I have discovered to this tight focus rule is Speculative Fiction. Other genres seem to work. Romance especially seems to make money. There is little or no money in SF and Fantasy fiction. The only way to get readership and ad revenue in spec-fic is to tie it in to comics, games and movies. I am a purist and I will not sink so low.

That being said. I am looking for an artist willing to work with me to produce some graphic stories. I’d like to convert a few of my ideas to graphic novels. I have even started to storyboard some ideas. Artists, it seems, are not that interested in working with writers. We seem bookish, boring and very uncool, I guess. It would be a difficult step for a teenage artist to take direction from an old guy like me.

Growing Rich by Blogging Is a High-Tech Fairy Tale | Newsweek Daniel Lyons | Techtonic Shifts | Newsweek.com






February 9th, 2009

Using a Net Name

I recently received a couple of invites to be a friend to someone whose name I did not recognize. I get these from time to time and they are usually spam bots. The name seemed familiar, so I clicked through and there was my cousin’s face smiling at me on facebook. She had used the surname Mansfield, which is an old family name on my mother’s side. The Mansfields were an interesting branch to the family and we have a diary written by one of my ancestors. It is from the 1830s and is mostly a list of disasters like train crashes, steam boats exploding and large city fires. My cousin used her own first name, but used the Mansfield surname to hide her real world identity.

My real name is scattered all over the internet, sometimes in places I would rather not think about. I wrote shareware in the 1980s and many of my programs were quite famous. I received a shareware writer of the year award back in the 90s. My program txt2com allowed someone to take a text file, wrap a reader around it and then compress it. The file was self contained and not easily altered. It was used for bomb making recipes, really dreadful porn and many other things that I did not know about. The bad thing was that my name was embedded in the file as the copyright owner of the software. I was not the owner of the contents. Searches on my name find some dreadfully bad stuff attributed to me.

In the world of the internet, I have been writing articles about harmonicas, science fiction, and web development since 1993. Yahoo shows 53,000 pages with Keith P. Graham on them.

I was thinking that it might be better to assume a Net-Name like Keith P. Mansfield to protect myself. It is like closing the barn door after the horse escaped, but in the future it might make a difference.






February 9th, 2009

The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches

Yesterday this website received over 1600 unique visits. The lion share were for the page of Overused Science Fiction Cliches. Looking through my logs, I find that most of these are coming in through Stumbleupon.com. This is a web application where users recommend other users. Evidently, the cliche list is popular there.

One bad thing is that the stumbleuponers don’t visit any of my other interesting web pages. They just look and stumble on the to the next page. It would be nice if they hung around. I changed the cliche page and out some of my more interesting links near the top so maybe they could try those pages, too.

I need graphics of classic SF cliches to snaz up the site. It is practically all text right now.

The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches






February 6th, 2009

Look under a Rock

My name, Keith Graham, sounds fairly unique, but Grahams are as common as Smiths in Scotland and Ireland. The name Keith is a popular name, especially for a good Scotch-Irish surname like Graham. The combination is fairly common. Look under a rock and there are good odds that a guy named Keith Graham is hiding there. The police once came to my house with an arrest warrant looking for a local Keith Graham. Luckily, I was able to convince them that I was not who they were looking for.

This site just popped up in one of my Google Alerts. Someone has registered KeithGraham.org (I own KeithGraham.com). He’s a motivational speaker, whereas I am a demotivational guy who doesn’t like talking to people. He lives in area code 210, which is in Texas.

All of us Graham’s are cousins. I even met a black Keith Graham once who told me that his Great Great Grandfather was half white and took his name from his slaveholder/biological father.

Good luck cousin Keith!

Home






February 4th, 2009

Galaxy Magazine August 1959

I read one of my Christmas presents this week. It was good. Galaxy magazine was an interesting alternative to Astounding. Some of the stories are weak, but all of them much too far out of the mainstream to have made it by Campbell.

Galaxy Magazine August 1959






February 2nd, 2009

Story Accepted

My dark little cyberpunkish story RepFix has been accepted at Electric Spec. About 300 people submitted for about 6 slots so I am very relieved that the story made it all the way. The acceptance letter was very nice.

I have Tyree Campbell to thank, because I read his story in Electric Spec in the last edition and liked it a lot. He wrote a dark cyberpunkish piece about people with medical nanobots in their system, which make it almost impossible to die, even if you want to. I thought, hey, if they liked Tyree’s story they might like mine.

I have a dozen half written stories sitting around and no time to finish them. Maybe now I can force myself to make time.

I report my stats at Duotrope, but they think that I have an "unrealistic overall acceptance/rejection ratio". I can’t help it if I’ve been on a lucky streak lately, selling stories on the first or second time out. I should record the stats on my story Speed Trap, and then they’ll think my stats are more than realistic – downright depressing, in fact.






February 1st, 2009

Fannie Mae engineer indicted for planting server bomb

This is an example of what you should not do if you want another job. I (stupidly) once put some code in a program I wrote that said “Keith has not been paid”. It kicked off two months after I finished a project. I was suspicious that I would not be paid, and I wasn’t. It was a stupid thing to do because it guaranteed that I would not be paid ever, and it burned some bridges that may have eventually proved lucrative. It hurt me, did not hurt the target, and was a real adolescent idea. It is up there with the top ten stupidest things that I have ever done.

Later on I told a fellow programmer about it. Rather than take it as a cautionary tale, he put destructive code in all of his programs. If he was ever fired, his code would wipe the database a month later. A supervisor discovered the code, the programmer was marched to the door, and I had to review tens of thousands of lines of his code searching for this idiots trojans.

The programmer at Fannie Mae did not write a complicated worm or anything. He changed a supervisor script that had access to several thousand servers. The script checked the date and when the time was right it would have killed a whole lot of data on all of the servers. It was just a few lines of extra code.

The kick is, that the guy screwed up this stupidly simple three or four lines of code and the reason he was discovered is that the script crashed the first time anyone tried to run it. Access logs pointed to who had made the change. The guy was a bad programmer and deserved to be fired. Now he faces 10 years in jail.

The moral of the story is, as a programmer, you are in a position of trust. Management has no idea what it is you do and how much they depend on your honesty. Ethically, you have to act in the best interests of your employers. If you betray that trust, there are always people who are better coders than you, who can 1) track you down, and 2) fix any damage in a short time. The best revenge is to get another job that pays even better than the one you were fired from.

Fannie Mae engineer indicted for planting server bomb