Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In Anticipation, Perchance To Dream

I think my geekiness may have finally over-run me. I have just realized what I really want to get for Christmas... Attending Membership to WorldCon; ergo the right to attend Anticipation 2009 in Montréal, Canada.

WorldCon is the annual convention of the World Science Fiction Society where writers, artists, and fans throughout the world meet up for the ultimate geek fest. And being a member for the year also gives one the right to vote for that year's Hugo winners. The Hugo's are one of the two most prestigious awards in the science fiction kingdom, the other being the Nebula's, which are only voted on by active writers in the field. Anticipation is the name of this year's convention the 67th annual, in Quebec (it's named anew each year).

So for five glorious days, filled with readings, panels, discussions, criticisms and lots of parties (not to mention all the hilarious uberfans costumed to the nines), I could geek out to my little heart's delight. This year's guest of honor is the esteemed Neil Gaiman, notable for his works in the lauded Sandman comics, and the novels Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), Neverwhere, and the recently made into movie Stardust. While his works lean more towards fantasy than SF, it would still be super cool to meet him. Another notable guest is the editor guest of honor, David G. Hartwell, while being primarily known as Senior Editor at Tor/Forge (a wonderful imprint for the genre) and for his editing skills on the long running yearly anthology Year's Best SF, he is also the editor for two of the greatest stand alone anthologies ever published: The World Treasury Of Science Fiction and The Hard SF Reniassance. The short story is severely underrated in today's SF market and it would be wonderful to meet him as well. Another notable guest is the master of ceremonies, Julie Czerneda, a biologist by education and writer (among many others) of the Species Imperative trilogy. She has also written books for educators using science fiction to teach science in the classroom. Extremely cool, if you must ask me.

On top of the scheduled guests and hosts of honor, there are always tons of other fantastic contributors to the community giving talks, attending conferences, etc... Last year, to name just a few: Stephen Baxter (oh, heck, I really hope he's there this year), Charles Stross (yup, the same wish), Nancy Kress (an amazing writer), Robert J. Sawyer (he almost certainly will be there, being a local), Robert Silverberg (truly a living legend and author of the very first SF book I ever read at age 12) and others. Being able to hear any of these and many others would be a dream come true. However, since these attendees are not announced yet, it is like a SF lottery, where everyone wins. Every year is filled with unexpected surprises and there are so many people I would love to see/meet/hear.

So now the question remains, who can I take with me? From what I hear of conventions, they are overwhelming to say the least and I will definitely need a buddy to hang with. But I'm pretty sure the only others that I chat with that are as geeky as me, are the folks I only know online, though my LibraryThing acquaintances to my BookMooch buddies. Hmmm... will have to think on that one for a while. And of course the attending financial (lodging, food, gas) and educational (I will be in school in August) concerns will need to be addressed as well.

Anyway, here's to hoping! It would be so friging great?

"Isn't it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?" - Kelvin Throop III (fictional).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Welcome To The SocioPolitical Soapbox

A wise man once told me to never let my blog define myself. Taking that advice to heart, I now introduce to you, yet another category of blog postings to this supposed science and book blog of mine: The SocioPolitical Soapbox.

As a citizen of the global wide intrawebs, it is my right, nay... my duty to spout my opinions as I see fit, demanding that they be heard and understood as FACT! **

So, on that note, I feel the need to inform you of why we must save the "Big Three" auto manufactures from their worthless selves.

Now to be fair, I am not a socialist (yet), and I truly believe that the free market should dictate the rise and fall of the businesses of our great nation. Foibles or brilliance aside however, in this case, I am firmly recommending a government "bailout" of GM, Chrysler & Ford, in one form or another. In what manner this should occur (purchase of stock, direct loans, etc...) I feel no need to suggest. Certainly some restrictions should be put in place, but I am NOT a economist, nor do I desire to be one either. Numbers and dollars do not interest me in the slightest. Leave that to the "professionals". On the other hand, I am a blue collar citizen of our nation and I know that if these three companies were to fail, it would have disastrous consequences for the American people, not to mention the world at large (as our economy so directly impacts the rest of the nations).

First off, I'm not defending the douche-baggery management of these companies. Clearly, they were idiots. A blind man could have seen the change in markets, what with oil prices and green activism abounding, the fall in demand of the SUV's they so marketed down our throats was inevitable. What I am defending though, is the stability of our country as a whole. Some estimates place a full 10% of our nations workforce in the hands of these employers. It's not just the U.A.W. that is at risk of loosing work, it encompasses a whole host of other businesses and employees across the country. From steel manufactures, to parts suppliers, to silicon valley tech-ies, to miners, to dealership sales peoples, to glass manufactures, to the plastics industry, to mechanics... to heck, even the $7 car wash and $35 quickie lube joints. The fact of the matter is, the big three are the largest consumers of steel and plastics and electronics in the nation. For them to fail, would be a catastrophe.

So write your senators, plead your congressmen, tug on your governor's sleeve and say "Hey! What the heck are you going to do to save these dolts?!? Spank them later, but throw them a bone now. We all need it."

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." - Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

**I beg that you recognize the sarcasm of this paragraph. I know that it is hard without vocal cues, but if you can't... please direct your browser elsewhere.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gah! Where Have I Been? Dreaming Of Somewhere Else, Quite Obviously

I just couldn't stay away. Through a month of laptop distress and several months of my brain overflowing with the histology of the diencephelon, photophosphorylation of ADP, and genetic drift of Drosophila melanogaster, I still can't stay away when NASA publishes actual photographs of the first extra-solar planet.

For about 18 years there have been discoveries of new planets not of our solar system, almost 15 per year, on average; over 300 to date. But they have always been deduced by indirect means. Most often, those means being the gravitational "jiggle" planets play on their star as they orbit.

Now, however, NASA has published photographic proof of these mysterious little (well, really quite huge) guys. Obviously the picture is not pixleated to NASA's standards but... you understand.

This is the star Fomalhut in the constellation Piscis Austrinus, of the southern sky. It is surround by a disk of red dust. The planet in question is Fomalhut b, outlined in the small box (you really can not see it a this resolution. It's estimated to be about (or up to) three times the mass of Jupiter and taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 822 years to orbit it's star.

Anyway, very cool news. I can't wait for the day when our technology will be enough to capture an image of an earthlike planet. It's bound to happen sooner or later. Then we will have a target to shoot for!

"...our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's futures, and we are all mortal. " - John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)