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In addition to writing, I also do some artwork (although as an artist, I make a pretty good truck mechanic). Still, I try and it's something I enjoy. To showcase some of my art (mostly figure studies for the moment), I've activated an account I've long had over on DeviantArt.

I'd originally created that account to be able to look at art that others had posted that were hidden behind mature tags and the like as, at the moment, is mine. While I don't consider "art nudes" to exactly be "mature content" it would appear that DeviantArt does so there we are.

In any case, here's one of my pictures. If nudity offends you....

As you can see, I've got a long way to go before becoming anything like a real "artist" but, as I said, I try.
10 January 2014 @ 07:21 pm
My daughter's pet hedgehog, Matt.

Pet Hedgehogs are not supposed to hibernate in captivity.  They still, however, retain the wild tendency to go into hibernation if temperatures drop much below around 72 degrees or so.  This, however, is a life-threatening condition in hedgehogs.

Thanks to the recent record colds in Indianapolis, our furnace just wasn't able to keep up.  The house got cold and, unnoticed, Matt (the hedgehog) slipped into hibernation.  I got him warmed (against my skin) this morning and he was moving around a bit and I put him back in his cage in the little plastic igloo that he used for a den, and then set a desk lamp with a 40 or so watt lightbulb in it to shine on it to keep it warm, covered the cage with a blanket to help hold the heat in, and turned up the house heat also to help keep him warm.

However, when we got home at the end of the day, Matt was dead.  Looks like he'd taken too much stress to his system.

My daughter, Athena, is understandably broken up.  I showed her the Rainbow Bridge poem hoping it would help her cope.  Her immediate reaction was "that's for dogs" so I had to explain to her that while the poem was written with dogs in mind, it applies to all animals that are beloved of people here on Earth.
I'm going to toss out an idea here. Gordon R. Dickson's book "Wolf and Iron" (linked below) is a remarkably dark view of a post apocalyptic world. In that world the apocalypse consisted of a widespread economic collapse leading to a breakdown in various "services". Communities become more "insular" as larger organizations fail, with individual neighborhoods practically becoming independent city-states. Roving bands of bandits complete the breakdown of rule of law, particularly when combined with any traveler or travelers not strong enough to protect themselves is seen as prey by those in more settled circumstances.

It's very grim and very bleak, at least in the story's short term. But it's also got an upbeat component. Jeebee, the protagonist, is the sole surviving (so far as he knows) repository of a brand new field of "computational" social science, one which actually predicted the collapse although in true clueless intellectual fashion he never personalized the results of his work until it was almost too late. And, so, he works to preserve that knowledge so that when the world recovers from the current collapse it can be extended and, it is to be hoped, used to prevent such collapses in the future. There's a strong undercurrent of "no matter how bad things seem now, we'll get through this and we'll make things better down the road".

That undercurrent I believe makes this book "Human Wave" and so Wolf and Iron illustrates that "Human Wave" does not have to be all sweetness and light. It can be quite dark and still be Human Wave.

Wolf And Iron
07 January 2014 @ 09:42 am
There's this:

Some people seem to think that this is unanswerable (just ask the guy, he'll tell you).

Consider this: before the carboniferous, or go back farther in the past, before the "oxygen catastrophe" (the evolution of photosynthesis), a_ of the carbon currently "locked up" in fossil fuels, all of it, was in the atmosphere (where do you think it came from anyway). Every last milligram. Absolute worst case (which will never happen) will be returning to the climate then. Yet even with every bit of CO2 that can possibly be in the atmosphere actually being in the atmosphere, there wasn't the "runaway greenhouse effect" that some alarmists claim could happen.

Just because people claim something can happen and is a realistic "worst case" doesn't mean it can and is.

There's also probabilities. You can't ignore them and, in fact, you (whatever "you" is reading this) don't. There is a finite probability that the next time you take a shower or bath you might slip, hit your head, and die. It happens. There's also a finite possibility that if you don't take that shower or bath have a bit more germ exposure leading to you getting sick. My bet is that you take that bath or shower despite the fact that "what's the worst that can happen" includes death.  The "getting sick" (and other less severe negatives of not showering and/or bathing) is simply a lot more likely than "slip and die" in your assessment. Every time I go to work, "the worst that can happen" includes having a fatal car crash. And again and again and again people make choices where "the worst that can happen" is truly horrific because of their assessment of the likelihood of that "worst case" actually happening.

As for probabilities in "global warming", consider that temperatures have been relatively flat for 17 years now. None of the models based on AGW (Anthropogenic--that's "man caused"--Global Warming) predicted that. Yes, yes, I know that the proponents say that the world has "really" been heating it's just that the heat is "hidden" in various ways. Still, none of the models predicted that result and, therefore, the models are incomplete at best and cannot be relied on for other predictions like, say, what the sea level and weather patterns will be like 100 years from now. Likewise, in 2005, when Katrina blew through Louisiana, we were told that this was a result of Global Warming and that future hurricane seasons would be even more severe. Except that didn't happen. More explanations. More rationalizations. But the core of science is prediction. Under these circumstances that will happen. If it fails to make testable predictions (and "testable" means that there is some potential outcome which would lead to the conclusion "we were wrong") it's not science. When any and every outcome is interpreted after the fact (regardless of what was said before said outcome) as "supporting" the "theory", it's not science and it's not a theory.

Also, note that in his "extreme case" for the "it's false but we take action anyway" isn't just loss of money. That "global depression" means that people, lots of people, die. Famine in Ethiopia? If we're in the middle of a depression we're going to be too busy trying to feed our own people to spend resources feeding theirs. (And if you think there wouldn't be famines without global warming, have I got a deal for you. No checks, please; cash only in small bills.) Elderly folk sensitive to heatstroke? Oh, I'm sorry. Air conditioning costs energy and due to cutbacks (why is it that people who are so "end global warming" are also, almost invariably, anti-nuke?) you can't have air conditioning. You know those fresh fruits and vegetables you get in the winter? The "carbon footprint" of providing them is pretty high. I'm sure if you're young and healthy you can weather the winter seasons without the various deficiency diseases getting too damaging. If.

Those are predictable, high probability results of drastic action to curb AGW.  And they are contrasted with predictions that come from "theories" and "models" that have a pretty poor record when it comes to making actual predictions.

So, no, he's not "making the argument obsolete". He's engaging in verbal legerdemain to obfuscate the very real concerns that a _lot_ of people have.
Saw it today in the Theater.

Not available even for pre-order yet, but you can find a "let you know when it's available" link here:


Okay, I can get showing some of the stuff that was alluded to but "off stage" in the original, or alluded to as backstory from the LOTR might be interesting. I can get that the walking and walking and walking through Mirkwood might not play well on the screen and the reasons for compressing it. I can even see compressing Bilbo's three trips down the whole to the Dragon's lair into one as making a certain cinematic sense. But where did that romantic subplot come from?

Still and all, I liked this one better than the first. The two big battles--on the river and under the mountain--weren't as outrageous as "falling with style" in the first one (if you saw it, you know what I mean), but they were still pretty over the top. Elves still appear to come from Krypton. There was a "fuzziness" in the image details of the first one that bothered me and was absent here.

All in all it was a fun way to spend a few hours.
16 December 2013 @ 10:27 pm
I'm a big proponent of space science, don't get me wrong, but my major interest in the "space program" when I was younger was the idea that maybe someday I could _go_, I could walk on the moon or mars or visit, maybe live in, a space colony. That was what I wanted: "I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom..." and if not Barsoom, then at least the real Mars.

When it became clear that it was never going to happen, a lot of my passion dried up. Oh, there was still the academic interest in space science, in understanding the sun and the planets, in maybe seeing if there is life on other worlds, in the solar magnetosphere and its motion through interstellar space.

But the passion that used to drive me was gone.

That's where NASA (and their political masters) dropped the ball, IMO. While I have nothing against the folk doing Space Science, I really think most of whatever budget they had should have been doing toward "access to space" technology. Improving rocket reliability. The strong, yet lightweight structures for flight airframes. Real hardware rather than whole forests of paper. Stuff done to bring, and presented as bringing, us closer to the day when you and I can _go_. We needed the space equivalent of the NACA cowl and 4 and 5 digit airfoils so that private companies could build private hardware that could carry private, commercial passengers to private space stations.

Instead we got Shuttle, and no new human carrying hardware until, well, nothing yet. And with Shuttle gone, we're left with even older technology (Soyuz) to get humans into Space. I mean that span carried us just about from the Ford Trimotor to the Boeing 707. Yes, space travel is hard, but more than 30 years after Shuttle's first flight we don't have anything better?

That passion got ignited again back on the old electronic service GEnie. Geoff Landis made the offhand comment that "what we needed was a rocket that individuals could make and that could carry a person up a hundred miles or so." I took the idea and ran with it. Geoff and I did a bunch of back and forth. Some other people stuck there nickel's worth in. And the result was the SpaceCub concept. We presented it at the NW Space Development conference. New Scientist included a bit about it. I was interviewed for an AAAS broadcast (I _really_ wish I could find tape or transcript for that).

For a while there, it looked like I was going to be able to go somewhere with it. At the college I was attending we had a visiting scientist from Russia. He put me in contact with his old professor. The professor put me in contact with someone from Energomach (manufacture of key rocket motors--including the verniers from the RD-107/108 that Geoff and and I were looking at for SpaceCub). And . . . well, there was no money for any "and" and I had to move on with the task of getting a job and providing for myself.

The real problem, even more than money, was the legal issues. I looked at the treaties of which the US was a signitory. I looked at the law, as it existed then. And, well, it looked pretty bad for anyone wanting to actually try something like SpaceCub. So, well, my old web page about it is still up, but that's as afar as it ever went.

But, not long after the X-Prize was announced. The specs for the prize matched what SpaceCub was intended to do, carry passengers to a height of 100 km (international definition of the beginning of Space) and bring them back to Earth, and do it over and over again with minimal time in between flights. I spoke to one of the folk there and he swore up and down that they weren't influenced by SpaceCub but, well, as Geoff said, before we came along nobody was talking about manned suborbital flight. Then after we started getting some press, suddenly they were. I don' t know. I have my suspicions, but I don't know.

Apparently the Rutans and Richard Branson think the legal issues can be dealt with since they're building a business to do what SpaceCub was supposed to do for (admittedly relatively well-heeled) individuals--private, human carrying rocket flights into space.

And so, my hope is back a little bit. But I'm afraid it's not hope resided in NASA or the government, but in the Rutans and Bransons of the world.
Some years back, I watched the deCappuccino version of The Man in the
Iron Mask
. The movie was okay, but one line caught me. It's near the
end, the second in command of the palace guard points to a dying d'Artagnon
(it's not a spoiler at this late date, is it?) and says, "All my life, all
I wanted to be . . . was him."

Damn . . . that moment.

You see, I grew up with heroes. I grew up with comics during the late
Silver Age, Superman was the Big Blue Boyscout, when Batman wasn't the
cowled psychopath, when Robin was starting solo adventures with Batgirl
(and while I knew I could never be Batman, I thought maybe Robin was
achievable). I wanted to be the hero, dammit, or if not the hero, at least
a competent sidekick.

Then I grew up and got “respectable”. But a part of me never quite grew out
of that.

And so I like to write about heroes that are really heroes because I figure
that there are other people out there, like me, who want to read about them.

I gave up on comic books, not because I outgrew them but because they
“outgrew” (if you can call it that) me. In the interests of being “real”
and “relevant” and “real” they wanted their heroes to be “flawed” by which
they meant “scarcely better than the villains”.

I saw it in prose fiction as well. Bleah people living bleah lives with not
a hero to be found.

When I saw the movie, I wrote out an anguished essay on the usenet group
“rec.arts.comics” titled “Where have all the heroes gone.” The one line
just struck so deeply to the core of my being.

I will never be that hero. I like to think that the dream, however, might
make me a better person than I would have been.

And that's why I love the idea of Human Wave.

And so I leave you with this musical interlude:

10 December 2013 @ 01:30 pm
Continuing an annual tradition:

A short bit I wrote and am sharing:

If you're an Atheist or Agnostic who doesn't like "Merry Christmas."
If you're a Christian who doesn't like "Happy Holidays."
If you're a Jew who doesn't like "Blessed be."
If you're a Wiccan who doesn't like "God Be with you."
If you're a Muslim who doesn't like "May Thor hold his hammer between you and harm."

I have one thing to say to you: Grow. Up. Take these things in the spirit
they are offered, one of well wishing, and leave it at that.

And on that note, may I wish you a very merry Christmas and may Thor hold his hammer between you and harm.

Gud Yule, everyone.
30 November 2013 @ 09:43 pm
Watched Frozen today.

Bottom Line impression: Wow. That was awesome.

I'll try to avoid spoilers here.

Okay, first things first. This is "based on 'The Snow Queen' by Hans Christian Andersen." Now, I haven't read the source material yet, but if they go true to form what this actually means is that they made a Disney movie which uses some of the trappings of the "source material." (Update:  I've now read the "source material" and, frankly, the only connection is that there's a queen who has a connection to ice and snow.  Other than that, nothing whatever to do with the Andersen tale.)

I'm OK with that. I like "Disney movies".

The story begins when she who would become the Snow Queen and her sister are little girls. They are playing, SQ to be is using her magic power over ice and snow to well, create ice and snow. There's an accident and the younger sister is hurt. The parents, the King and Queen, take the girl to the "Trolls" (good people who apparently take the form of rocks when resting or to hide) who are able to "cure" her, but there's a problem. The older sister's power is dangerous and the King and Queen decide she needs to "control" it (by which they meant suppress it) and to keep it secret they cut off contact with the world. In fact, SQ cuts off all contact with her younger sister and, frankly, this was the first of many "feels" in this movie as my heart just broke for that little girl.

Time passes, the King and Queen go on a journey where they are lost at sea. The new queen is to be crowned and. . . .

There's adventure, there's excitement, there's betrayal, there's true love (although not what you might think).

It is PG-13 and there are two places where I see possible problems for younger kids. The giant monster snowman might be a bit scary for some (I'd call it a bit less scary than the bear in Brave as a point of reference). The other point is the climax. If someone hasn't figured out the real "solution" to the problem (again, trying to avoid spoilers here), that bit at the end can be heartbreakingly scary for a bit.

All in all, I will own this one on Blu-Ray.
18 November 2013 @ 08:03 am
Unlike most days at Rainbow Bridge, this day dawned cold and gray, damp as a swamp and as dismal as could be imagined. All the recent arrivals were confused and concerned. They had no idea what to think for they had never experienced a day like this before. But the animals who had spent some time waiting for their beloved people knew exactly what was happening and began to gather at the pathway leading to the Bridge to watch. They knew this was something special.

It wasn't too long before an elderly animal came into view, head hung heavy and low with tail dragging along the ground. The other animals on the pathway...the ones who had been at RainBow Bridge for a while...knew the story of this sad creature immediately. They had seen it happen far too many times.

Although it was obvious the animal's heart was leaden and he was totally overcome with emotional pain and hurt, there was no sign of injury or any illness. Unlike the pets waiting at the Bridge, this dog had not been restored to his prime. He was full of neither health nor vigor. He approached slowly and painfully, watching all the pets who were by now watching him. He knew he was out of place here. This was no resting place for him. He felt instinctively that the sooner he could cross over, the happier he would be. But alas, as he came closer to the Bridge, his way was barred by the appearance of an Angel who spoke softly to the old dog and apologized sorrowfully, telling him that he would not be able to pass. Only those animals who were with their special people could pass over the RainBow Bridge. And he had no special beloved people...not here at the Bridge nor on Earth below.

With no place else to turn, the poor elderly dog looked toward the fields before the Bridge. There, in a separate area nearby, he spotted a group of other sad-eyed animals like himself...elderly and infirm. Unlike the pets waiting for their special people, these animals weren't playing, but simply lying on the green grass, forlornly and miserably staring out at the pathway leading to the Bridge. The recent arrival knew he had no choice but to join them. And so, he took his place among them, just watching the pathway and waiting.

One of the newest arrivals at the Bridge, who was waiting for his special people, could not understand what he had just witnessed and asked one of the pets who had been there for some time to explain it to him.

"That poor dog was a rescue, sent to the pound when his owner grew tired of him. The way you see him now, with graying fur and sad, cloudy eyes, was exactly the way he was when he was put into the kennels. He never, ever made it out and passed on only with the love and comfort that the kennel workers could give him as he left his miserable and unloved existence on Earth for good. Because he had no family or special person to give his love, he has nobody to escort him across the Bridge."

The first animal thought about this for a minute and then asked, "So what will happen now?"

As he was about to receive his answer, the clouds suddenly parted and the all-invasive gloom lifted. Coming toward the Bridge could be seen a single figure...a person who, on Earth, had seemed quite ordinary...a person who, just like the elderly dog, had just left Earth forever. This figure turned toward a group of the sad animals and extended outstretched palms. The sweetest sounds they had ever heard echoed gently above them and all were bathed in a pure and golden light. Instantly, each was young and healthy again, just as they had been in the prime of life.

From within the gathering of pets waiting for their special people, a group of animals emerged and moved toward the pathway. As they came close to the passing figure, each bowed low and each received a tender pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears. Their eyes grew even brighter as the figure softly murmured each name. Then, the newly-restored pets fell into line behind the figure and quietly followed this person to the Bridge, where they all crossed together.

The recent arrival who had been watching, was amazed. "What happened?"

"That was a rescuer," came the answer.

"That person spent a lifetime trying to help pets of all kinds. The ones you saw bowing in respect were those who found new homes because of such unselfish work. They will cross when their families arrive. Those you saw restored were ones who never found homes. When a rescuer arrives, they are permitted to perform one, final act of rescue. They are allowed to escort those poor pets that couldn't place on Earth across the Rainbow Bridge. You see, all animals are special to them...just as they are special to all animals."

"I think I like rescuers," said the recent arrival.

"So does God," was the reply.

--Author Unknown.