Archive for February, 2012

Zero-G Guitar

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

There is a guitar on the ISS, designed for playing in Zero Gravity. I wrote a story about this (available on Smashwords for the Kindle and other eReaders) called “Unplugged“.

Annoying Hertz Google Doodle.

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Does it bother anyone else that the Google Doodle for Hertz’s 155th birthday is not a sine wave? They used half circles, some distorted, to create a sine-wave looking thing, but a true sine wave crosses the x axis at a 45 degree angle. I suppose using the half circle is a cheap way of making it look good, but it is not a sine wave, and as a Math Major, I am outraged.

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz’s birthday marked with Google doodle wave – Telegraph.

My First Pro Sale

Friday, February 17th, 2012

The SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) has decided that a professional sale is one that pays more the 5 cents a word, totals more than $50 and is to a science fiction or fantasy magazine that has been in operation more than a year.

I sold my story “Finny Moon” to Lore magazine today. Lore pays 5 cents a word and the story was about 2,500 words. It has been in business since last August (much longer, actually, since it was a print magazine in the 90s), but my story will appear next September. The sale meets all the requirements of a Professional Sale.

I need three of these sales to join the SFWA. It took me about 10 years to make the first pro sale. Now that I know how to do it, I can write more stories that sell to pro venues. Seriously.

Andre Norton born 100 years ago today.

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Andre Norton – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

My Birthday is Coming Up

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Robotic Mule

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

I’ve had a story idea for a while. It is based on a an O Henry story, but one of his early westerns. I think it would translate well into Science Fiction. I think this is the missing piece.


Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

I’ve been reading Jim Shannon’s blog for a few years now. His life parallels mine in a few ways (except he’s from Canada), including adopting cats. He has a small apartment, and I have a small house and each of us has more cats than we need. Unfortunately with cats, they have short lives and it seems that just when we get ones that we like, they’re taken away.

I will never get used to losing a beloved cat. It was just a few months ago that Max left us after a long illness. We knew it was coming but it still hurts.

Jim’s long time friend, Sparky, had to be put to sleep. He had a corona virus and was fading fast. He couldn’t eat and had trouble breathing. His death was eminent so it seemed kinder to end it quickly. I hope someone has enough love and courage to do the same for me when my time comes.

I like to believe that when I pass on, that all of the cats that I’ve lost over the years will be waiting by their food bowls in a better place, waiting to be fed, and then pile on to my lap and purr while I pet them for eternity.

The Waggle Dance and Honey Bee Brains

Monday, February 6th, 2012

I have seen the honey bee dance that is used by bees to tell each other how to find flowers. A bee returns to the hive with a load of nectar and dances around in a circle and then moves, wagging back and forth in the direction of the source of the nectar. The bee will indicate the direction and the distance to the flowers by the details of the dance.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the details of the waggle dance. The bee, it might appear, does not have a brain big enough to communicate the information to other bees and other bees don’t have a brain big enough to understand the dance. There are those that claim that the neurons in the bee’s brain are not complex enough for such behavior.

Yet the bees dance.

Neural nets can very easily aspire to “emergent” behaviors. The bee has a great variety of emergent behaviors. They care for their young, the queens go on mating flights, bees swarm and send out scouts to find a new home. They have dozens of chemicals which communicate things like the needs of the queen, the condition of the hive, and danger. These behaviors are not learned, but can be refined by experience. The basic rules of behavior, transmitted to the bees through their DNA, are probably very simple, but result in complex behavior.

Emergent complex behaviors which are base on simple rules written in DNA, are rampant in life. The thing about the bees is that the behavior is so precise. It almost appears as though the bees are doing arithmetic and much of the discussion has centered around whether or not bees can count up to five or 8. Of course, the bees can’t count. The process is not digital at all, but analog. The bees can feel that 5 wags of another bee’s tail is more than 4 wags, and they “get a feel” for the distance based on how impressed they were by the degree of wagging. The bee doing the dance does not know the distance to the flowers, she just has a feel for how hard it was to fly the distance and correlates that to the number of waggles in her dance.

Bees have tiny brains and their neurons are counted in the hundreds of thousands, as apposed to a human brain which has billions of neurons. Those thousands of neurons each has many connections so that the total number of neural paths numbers into the tens of millions, and very simple rules can result in very complex behavior. Add to that the ability of a bee to learn and remember simple things and their behavior is amazingly intelligent.

Now think about man’s brain. We already have computers which are approximately the raw computing power of a human brain. Computers rival the human brain in complexity and simply blow away the brain in speed. Yet, there is no indication that computers are becoming intelligent in the same way that a human brain is intelligent. The machines can compute, but they can’t think.

The reason why we haven’t created a thinking machine has nothing to do with the hardware. Computers are far superior to the human brain in the hardware department. Thought, Intelligence, Conscience, and Soul are emergent behaviors, based on a large number of inherited and simple rules that are written in our DNA. The raw structure of the brain is a vehicle for letting these rules interact. We can examine the brain structurally and mimic some of the things that it does, but until we discover those basic rules of intelligence, computers will be dumb servants.

On the other hand, it is quite possible that computers will develop their own DNA, so to speak, in the form of operating systems, programs, apps and databases. It is possible that a machine may wake up some day. Perhaps someone will map the basic structural rules of the brain and translate some of them to computer algorithms. These may allow the computers to evolve into something else. This may even happen in our own lifetimes.

The honey bee is a model that can be used to understand emergent behavior. There are surprisingly few neurons in the brain of a honey bee and it is possible  and probably not very difficult to model their behavior. It may be possible, before very long to completely understand how the basic rules of computing that a honey bee inherits can be translated into the complex behavior of the waggle dance. When we can do that, it will not be long before we can start understanding the basic rules that allow a human to know, understand and think.

Short Stories

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

I haven’t sold a short story in quite a while. This mainly due to sending only to pro markets during 2011. Pro markets have acceptance rates of about 1 story in 5,000 submissions and it is hard to climb out of the slush pile of unsolicited short stories.

My Story Mizuki is hard sell because of the inappropriate language and themes. Several editors told me they liked the story, but could not publish it. The story is about a robotic sex doll, and since most magazines cater to young adults, it has not found a home in over a year of submissions. I sent it out today to Rudy Rucker’s magazine Flurb. Flurb is a magazine that Rudy started to publish short stories that are not publishable through the traditional markets. It has stories by Rudy, John Shirley, Shiner, and other cyberpunks, and I would be very happy to share a Table of Contents with such good  writers.

My story If Wishes… is shortlisted at another magazine, I won’t mention the name so I don’t jinx it. They have room for 5 or 6 stories an issue and they have held out 12 stories on the short list according to their slush stats. I have to beat out 6 other stories to make it. I have already beaten out 220 or so stories to get this far. The story is very different; the main character is a young girl with downs syndrome. I hope it makes it just because it is so different, but different is not an advantage in publishing.

I have one last story that has been out a long time at good magazine that pays professional rates. It is Finny Moon, a lovecraftian story I wrote for the poker guys and it came out better than I could have hoped.  According to the slush statistics at Duotrope, my story is still waiting  while they are rejecting stories submitted weeks after mine. This means 1) A slush reader is way behind in her reading, or 2) The story is lost, or 3) A slush reader forgot to send the rejection, or 4) I mistyped the email address when I sent it, or 5) the rejection is lost in the spam folder, or 6) The story is being held for consideration. I prefer to believe #6. I will be an optimist until proven wrong.  I am amazed at how often magazines lose my stories. I just checked, and about 10% of my submissions are listed as lost. Finny Moon an old style horror story after Poe, Chambers, Machen or Lovecraft. There are few places that publish these, and if it rejected again there is no place left to send it to.

If I sell all of these stories it means that for the first time in years I will not have a story waiting anywhere. I have about 20 good stories half written and no time to work on them. I will need to sneak some time in here at work, but it hard, and the powers that be are watching.


Rudy rejected Mizuki, If Wishes.. was sent back, and Finny Moon was accepted. Mizuki and If Wishes… have been sent to the bit bucket. Finny Moon will appear next September in Lore Online.

Book Sales

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

My book sales have died down. I made about $35 in January from royalties and I don’t expect to do better for a while.

I sold 4 books in England and one in Germany.

I have three books nearly done as far as formatting, but I haven’t submitted them to Amazon. I have yet to sell any copies of Frogs in Aspic, so I don’t feel that there is really any need to do more Science Fiction. I still have a harmonica book in the works and a I started copying chapters from my bee blog, but they require more work than I have time for. I have been busy at my job and don’t have time to sneak in some personal work during the day.

I have lots of other stuff that I’ve written that might sell. I could publish my stuff on harmonica amps. There are no books on harp amps out there. It would have to be a large format book with lots of pictures and schematics.