Archive for October, 2010

Cousin Bob Heinlein

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I finished the Heinlein biography and at the end it has some genealogy. Several of the surnames looked familiar. Bob’s family stretches back to Connecticut and some early New England settlers, as do many of my ancestors. I checked my family tree on and found matches. I am proud to say that I am Robert Heinlein’s cousin at least three ways on both my father and mother’s sides. Of course, this is 8th, 9th and 10th cousins, which means that for all practical purposes we are not really related.

It is interesting to know, though, that there is at least a tiny chunk of some DNA that Robert A. Heinlein and I share.

8th cousins are not that uncommon. Much of the US are probably 8th cousins to each other.

If you consider two kids per household, I have 512 8th level ancestors, and they each have 512 8th level grandchildren. That means that if every family only had 2 kids that Heinlein had over 25,000 8th cousins. If each family had 4 kids, which is much more common (and most families had lots of kids 100 years ago), that makes Bob and I two of 8 million 8th cousins. (It is almost quitting time on Friday and I am doing the math in my head – it can’t be right).

Anyway, it is nice to be related to Robert A. Heinlein, not matter how distantly.

Layoffs Coming to the County

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I learned this morning that a New York State program being run by the County where I work is being outsourced. This is a State program that NY pays the county to administer. NY pays to administer the mandated program, but it costs the county a little more than the state pays. The department is staffed by county employees, which are marginally more expensive than non-union clerical staff and many will eventually retire on county funded pensions, so this program is a net expense to the county.

One of my jobs has been to do technical support for this program. I maintain the program releases and configure PCs. It is one of my “lesser and related duties” as it does not require programming on my part. I install and configure software, backup databases and act as chief cook and bottle washer for anything that involves database, network or programs. It is NOT programming, which I consider my profession, but I don’t mind much working on the system.

In the course of doing this work I have made some friends. I feel like Norm in the TV show Cheers. Everyone knows my name and they all say “hello Keith” as I walk down through the cubicles looking for a PC that has gone rogue. I feel that this department is as much a home as I’ve got working for Westchester.

All of these people just got their layoff notices. The county has notified the state that they have to find someone else to do the work. My job now is to watch the databases and try to prevent sabotage. I am being asked to facilitate the change, but this feels like I am betraying my friends.

A very few of these people might be able to fill vacancies in other departments. A small number will be hired for the out-sourcing company that will take over the operations, but at low pay and probably without benefits. The majority will have to try to find new jobs in the public sector, and most will never have as good a job ever again.

Things seem to be turning around in the economy. It is too late to prevent this kind of thing. Perhaps this fine-tuning of budgets is a good thing for the public in general. I feel sick, though, about my friends all being laid off in just time for the holidays.

Robert A. Heinlein – In Dialogue With His Century, by Patterson

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

I am about halfway through Robert A. Heinlein – In Dialogue With His Century, by William H. Patterson. I am reading it in 100 page chunks on the bus. Much of this extremely well documented book is surprising to me.

My opinion of Heinlein has changed a little because of the book. It is an authorized biography, but since Ginny Heinlein is dead, I think that some of the material that Ginny might not have allowed, such as RAH’s sex life and his nudism, have slipped in.

My opinion of RAH as a writer has dropped a little. It seems that he relied heavily on others to edit, rewrite and rebuild his stories. Heinlein’s best stories were molded by his wife and his editors. John W. Campbell, Jr. took RAH’s first stories and chopped them up, rearranged and sometimes rewrote them. His second wife Leslyn was a script doctor in Hollywood for years and a published author herself. Heinlein relied on her for feedback and even rewrites of his work. The ideas are all his, and the basic plots are his, but the complex treatments, characters, and some of the structural details can be traced to Campbell and Leslyn.

Heinlein was a good writer because he had excellent support. Heinlein was also very lucky. Some of his less stellar stories sold, first because in the late 1930s SF boomed, and almost any story would sell somewhere. Campbell and other pulp editors were badly in need of the kind of stories that RAH wrote. Second, once he sold some stories, his name and style were easily recognized and he could sell even his stinkeroos (as he called them).

His first four decades (he’s about 40 when I stopped reading this morning) are stressful because of his health, but also because he seems to make bad decisions on a moment’s notice. He was very unlucky in his personal life in many ways. He made snap decisions that I am sure he regretted, but he was the kind of person who stuck to his guns. He wanted to be loyal and respected duty and honor, but his own dumbness in some areas made this kind of life painful for him. He stuck with toxic relationships when he should not have. People continually took advantage of him, and he never seemed to catch on.

I have not reached it yet, but he divorces the alcoholic Leslyn and marries Ginnie. Ginnie, I think does a much better job protecting him, but I think that his writing started to drop in quality when he lost Leslyn.

The book is huge and meticulously documented. There are a few typos and sometimes there is a mangled sentence that I have to read twice, but that will all be fixed in the second edition. In spite of Ginnie being gone for a while, the book still has her stamp on it. In the footnotes, many of the references to events involving Leslyn have been provide by the Ginnie who married RAH after he divorced Leslyn, and might be colored by Ginnie’s opinion of the wife she replaced. I find that the Ginnie quotes concerning Leslyn that are included in the text detract a little from the air of impartiality that a book like this requires.

Heinlein seemed to know all the Golden Age SF writers, especially those on the west coast. (The east coast was Fred Pohl’s territory). The book is important as a history of the Golden Age in much the same way Pohl’s The Way the Future Was is important. (Pohl is working on release 2.0 of The Way the Future Was, and I interesting to re-reading it and comparing it to In Dialogue With His Century)

If you enjoy golden age SF, then buy the book. It is well worth the read and is as close as we will probably ever get to revealing the “real” Robert A. Heinlein.

Orionid meteor shower tonight

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

The Orionid meteor shower peaks tonight. The meteors are rocks and sand left behind by Halley’s comet. It has been going on for a week now, but tonight is the peak in terms of frequency of meteors.

This is best viewed after the moon sets and before dawn, so your best bet in the U.S. in the wee hours just before sunrise. Around midnight (when I go to bed) the moon will be high in the sky, masking all but the brightest meteors. I’ll go out and look, though, if the sky is clear. — Meteors From Halley’s Comet Rain Down on Earth.

Holographic Rock Star

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

This is very much a Cyberpunk meme. Hatsune Miku is a Japanese rock star that is entirely computer generated. She appears on stage as a giant holographic image and her voice is synthesized from a baseline female voice. The voice, perhaps, is the most interesting thing about her. A real singer’s voice is sampled and broken down into its components and used as a look-up table for new music and words. It might be possible using this technology to take Frank Sinatra’s voice, break it down and reassemble it so we could hear old blue eyes singing a Lady Ga Ga song.

The performance is very ordinary, but its like a dog singing God Bless America, it is not that the dog does it well, it is amazing that the dog can do it all.

We will see much more of this and eventually there will be performances with real artistic genius, and not just a video where we say “son-of-a-gun” and move onto the next thing on our list.

New Cat Quilt

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

I got lots of good stuff at the Garage Sales today. Erica bought this small quilt for $1. She set it on the couch and Max immediately went over to it and snuggled up in it. Cats like to center themselves on geometric shapes. On the bed the cats arrange themselves on the rings of the wedding ring quilt. On the rugs, the center themselves in the patterns.

Max is quite old and sick, but he certainly likes the quilt.

30 Rejections

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Pedestal magazine closed today without accepting my story. They seem to have stopped reading today and are preparing the Oct 21 issue. The next issue is a for 1500 word stories only. I can assume that I did not sell Speed Trap to Pedestal, which makes 30 rejections for my favorite story. I sent it off the Futurismic today and should hear back from them in less than two weeks. I have yet to decide where it goes to after they reject it. If it comes back before Halloween I might send it to AnotheRealm as their reading period ends on the 31st.

I have started writing a story with the same main character as Speed Trap. I’ve re-written Speed Trap so many times that I feel that I know the character very well. The new story is all written in my head, but I haven’t had time to put it to pixels.

Honey Harvest

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I was going to harvest all the hives, but after robbing one honey super form the Justine hive, I am pooped. I got about 30 pounds from just the one super. There are two more on Justine and the other hives make about 9 more. If I am right that would be about 200 pounds of honey or more. I can’t handle that much.

The bees are guarding the honey right now. They know where I put it and even though I have it sealed up they are swarming around.

I was not stung once.

I will take a day off next week and try to rob some more from the hives. I want to do about 100 pounds of honey. I have to order more bears!

Ten Ten Ten Ten Ten Ten

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Date-time all 10’s – 10/10/2010 10:10 am. WordPress won’t give the fine control to publish this to the second, though.

Confessions of a used-book salesman.

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Confessions of a used-book salesman. – By Michael Savitz – Slate Magazine.

I have seen people at Library Sales scanning books. I see now what they are doing. Using an App they check Amazon to find out how much profit they can reasonably make from a book. They then can buy the book, put it up for sale on Amazon, AbeBooks and Alibris and make a profit. It seems like a good little business.

The app can be expensive. You also need a smart phone with web access. The monthly cost of the business has to be around $200 counting cell phone, gas and minor annoyances. If you make  a buck a book you need to sell 200 books a month or 6 or 7 a day. That means that each week you need to come up with more than 50 books to sell.

If you limit yourself to books with a profit of $5 or more you should be able to get by on 40 books a month. I think I could do 20 books a week from garage sales.

This might be my retirement job. At least I can read the books I before I sell them.

Forbidden Planet

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Tonight on TCM they are showing Forbidden Planet, my all time favorite Science Fiction movie. The time is 8pm here in NY. Check your listings and WATCH IT!

Great Great Grandpa’s House

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

This house was built by my Great Great Grandfather Harvey Polhemus in Valley Cottage, NY. This is the house I want to live in.

Kids Write about Zombies…

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Kids write zombie stories. Adults write zombie haikus.

In response to a writer talking about his recently published zombie stories, Tyree Campbell penned this interesting little thingy:


zombie nuns
whacked fingers produce
better brains

~ tyree

(You have to be aware that in pre-teen culture Zombies enjoy eating brains.)

Preparing for the Coming Apocalypse

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

$799.99 after $200 OFF   Shelf Reliance THRIVE™  1-year Supply  Dehydrated & Freeze-Dried FoodCostco will sell you a year’s worth of food to help you prepare for the Apocalypse. I am tempted. You could live a year on $2 a day.

Now if they would only make a package for the cats.

$799.99 after $200 OFF
Shelf Reliance THRIVE™1-year Supply
Dehydrated & Freeze-Dried Food
1-year Food Supply For 1 Person
5,011 Total Servings
84 #10 Cans

via Costco – $799.99 after $200 OFF Shelf Reliance THRIVE™ 1-year Supply Dehydrated & Freeze-Dried Food.