Coffee makers that talked

Originally posted by [profile] superplin at Zombiecast
Hey, remember this little project by [personal profile] masqthephlsphr and myself from way back in 2008?

Yeah, we didn't, either. Until I happened to be cleaning up my web server, and discovered the folder.
We did a whole 11 episodes, and some of them are actually kind of interesting.

So we decided to get with the modern times and turn them into a SoundCloud playlist that anyone can access, just in case you want to get all nostalgic with us as we drink way too much and ramble on about early episodes of our favorite series. 


...And then life throws you a curve ball

...I don't even know where to begin. I guess... a month ago? I started to experience incredible pain while sitting. In my neck, in my back, in my left shoulder. Some of this is arthritis, some is muscle strain from arthritis. I've been experiencing arthritis twinges in the knees, back, and neck for a few years now. But I've never had any trouble sitting for long periods of time. Then the pain got exponentially worse at some point in November, I am not even sure when, to the point where I can't sit and write anymore, at least not comfortably, and I have to do pain drugs from my orthopedic doctor to get through my work day. I can't sit on my recliner (at all), or on my couch/at the dinner table without major neck and back support (or any chair, really). I have an inexpensive ergonomic chair at work that I can sit in most of the day, if I get up frequently and walk and stretch out.

That's the crazy thing. It's more comfortable now to walk than sit. I take walks when I'm in too much pain. At home, I have been reduced to lying down in my bed to do most sedentary things (and you can't lie flat--I mean, everything flat, including your head and neck--and do most sedentary things, it turns out). Over Thanksgiving weekend, I lay down so much, I got a bed rash.

Now, you might say, "Well, all that sitting isn't healthy anyway." But that's kind of like saying the barn door shouldn't be left open after the horse is long gone. I am writer, and a computer programmer. I have been sedentary for a long, long time. All I can do now is try to fight against the tide.

I'm trying to figure out what changed between October and now to effect me so radically (besides crappy genes on both sides finally coming to a head against years in sedentary pursuits). And there's only one thing I can think of. In late October, I went to my orthopedic doctor about my neck arthritis, because it was becoming something of an issue at work. He sent me to a physical therapist, who worked on my neck and shoulders. It was after those sessions were completed I started to have the constant, piercing pain, even when everything was well-supported, and repeated muscle pulls and muscle tenderness.

I made a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic doctor and he took me off PT and had me schedule two MRIs, one on my back and one on my neck. I literally broke into tears from the pain in his office. I was (still am) very fearful I won't be able to do my job anymore. I remember the day--it was my birthday, last month--when the words "going on disability" popped into my head for the first time as a possible scenario.

Now, I am hoping that won't happen. I am working on all sorts of interventions. A new, orthopedic recliner (zero-grav) for home, a new gym exercise/muscle strengthening program with a personal trainer, and then, whatever interventions my orthopedic doctor recommends after he sees my MRI results (I had those done Tuesday evening).

Pain is a strange thing. I always considered myself pretty stoic, but the pain I've been experiencing lately--inescapable, debilitating to normal, everyday activities--has turned me into a harpy. You just discover this wounded animal side to your personality.


I am terribly behind in my space geeking. Life has thrown me a couple of curveballs, and there's been a lot of cool space stuff to fall behind on geeking about.

(1) Lunar Mission One: A kickstarter campaign by a private British group, Lunar Missions Ltd, to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon and drill deep into the rock for a scientific analysis of the the geological composition of the Moon.

(2) Hayabusa 2 launched on December 3rd. It is a Japanese asteroid sample return mission targeted at asteroid 1999 JU3. It is due to arrive in July of 2018 and return to Earth in 2020.

(3) Orion! NASA's new reusable spacecraft intended for future manned space missions (part of NASA's plans to return to the Moon, and their Asteroid Retrieval Mission) had its first unmanned test flight on December 5th. It did two orbits around the Earth, then returned safely.

(4) New Horizons, NASA/JPL's mission to Pluto, woke up from a two-year hibernation in preparation for its arrival at Pluto this coming July. It will stay "awake" from here on out, and hopefully get some awesome pictures of the Pluto system before its fly-by. Then it is off to explore another Kuiper Belt Object.

Non Nano report

I sort of fell off the LJ train after my thirty days of posting thing.

Final Non-Nano November report: 65 out of 117 scenes

52 left for December.

These are the mini-scenes I identified for clean-up, double-checking, and/or composing.

Might have gotten a few more done over Turkey Day weekend, except I had another short story to write for my class, and arthritic impediments to writing I won't detail here.

Birthday Kids!!

Happy Birthday, [personal profile] londonkds!!!

Happy Birthday, [personal profile] butterfly!!!

Cool stuff

Thanks everyone for the birthday greetings yesterday. The most surprising one I got, though, was from Google:

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I realize this is a login cookie thing, but it's surreal when you're used to seeing whatever Google Doodle everyone else in the world/your country is seeing.

Also, this was a fun email to get. I think the affection is mutual:

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I don't have to post today, since my thirty days was up yesterday, but I am so glad it's Friday. Loooong week. We had a national user's conference at work, and I had to commute to Phoenix for the first three days, then I had an early AM blood appointment yesterday, so I have gotten little writing on the novel done this week. Some of that has to do with I am SO THROUGH with my La-Z-Boy recliner, where I do my writing (and reading, and TV watching, and everything else). Currently shopping for a more ergonomic replacement.

Today is my 7th anniversary of working at this place.

OTOH, check out my original fiction short story.

Also distracted by a robot landing on a comet (a bunch of times).

The filly has landed

Philae has successfully landed on comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but its landing harpoons didn't fire. Presumably, its ice screws did, though. The comet is between 3-4 km wide, so it has little surface gravity, and the the lander could detach if it tries to do anything that pushes itself towards the comet too hard (think of how you bounce in the opposite direction when you push hard against something).

If it detaches, there's no way for the orbiter to bring it back. This was a one-way trip. But it should already have interesting data.

ETA: Apparently, Philae landed and started sending back information on the surface it encountered, then "bounced" and relanded.

ETA ETA: then bounced and relanded AGAIN.

ETA ETA ETA: then it landed on its side against a "rock" face. It isn't anchored, but its down, and otherwise functioning as expected.


Non-Nano report

Conference in Phoenix for work this week means my mornings are getting eaten up by commuting, and my evenings involve collapse. Plus, this evening: comet!

Scene countdown, 11/11/14: 81 30%

Moar space robots!

It's taken ten years to get there, but early Wednesday, November 12 Central European time (from about 1 AM to 8 AM, which is about 5 PM to midnight Pacific time), the European Space Agency will land a craft on a comet. Their Rosetta spacecraft got to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko three months ago, and has been in a weird jagged "orbit" around it ever since. Now its attached lander, Philae, is being prepped to detach from it.

All the pre-flight stuff is going to happen when I'm busy at a conference next week, and the actual flight and grand finale landing, if it is successful, will happen in the middle of the night. Good luck to the ESA. #cometlanding

Two videos related to this. The first is more cutesy space stuff, but it's also part of a rather brilliantly accessible series of cartoons promoting and explaining their mission.

The other video is a short art film the ESA collaborated on that I believe is a promo for a longer, upcoming science fantasy film, "Ambition" about the life-creating chemicals and water of comets:

When space stuff tweets

Yeah, it's cutesie, but it also makes what is far away and highly technical a little more human.

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Mars rover to Mars satellite

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Comet lander to Mars rover

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(Dwarf-) Planet to planet
This was on the internets today, mocking me with its personal relevance:

In my writing class this week, we had to do a meditation exercise to learn awareness of our bodies (good writing involves being in the body, doncha know) while sitting down. I was a rebel. I lay down for it instead.

Earlier, on Wednesday, my PT asked how my level of pain was. I think he meant "between now, and when we started a few weeks ago." My answer was, "Well, it depends."


Well, (1) which part of my body are we talking about? Oh, and, (2) my chair, (3) my chair, (4) my chair, and (5) my chair…..

I am in the process of chair shopping for both work and home, but actually helpful chairs are customized, and customized costs bucks. It is not something you purchase lightly.

I am a computer programmer by day, and a reader and writer by night. I do watch a little TV, but TV is hardly the problem when you are going to sit in the same chair anyway to work on a story, or read the internets, or read a book.

Of course, there is wisdom in getting up every once in a while from these activities--especially if your chair isn't custom-built for comfort--and stretching out all those muscles, and doing so for more than just a brief piddle-break or to grab a snack. On weekends, when I can spend an entire day in my chair writing, I find myself off fiddling, several times a day, on household projects elsewhere in the house, or in the garage. It's like I have to get up and do something, and that's probably a saving grace.

At work, it's more complicated. They want you, you know, doing your work, and at work, when I'm in my chair, I'm often pinned down by a jury-rigged set-up of lumbar pillows, blankets, multiple heating pads, foot rest, neck rest, lap desk and the half dozen other things I need so as not to get sore within fifteen minutes. Standing up and getting settled back down becomes, therefore, a very complicated affair.

Oh, plus, taking my shoes off and having to put them back on every time.

I shudder to think, though, what my body would be like now if I'd stayed in teaching. My dear old dad, who was in retail for forty years, was in pretty bad shape by the time he retired at 63.

But yeah, all that aside, I really need to get off my ass more, esp at the work place.

Scene countdown, 11/7/14: 89 24%


Birthday girl!!!

Happy Birthday, fresne!!!

Reading Thursday

What I just got done reading: Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Finished. Wasn't into it.

What I'm reading now: Paradox: Stories Inspired by the Fermi Paradox, by various authors.

The Fermi Paradox, ICYDK, coined by physicist Enrico Fermi, is simply the question, "If there is intelligent alien life in the universe, why haven't we seen any evidence of them?"(Yes, I know, I am reading stories that might have aliens in them. "Might" and/or "indirectly" is why.) Various sci-fi universes have offered different answers to this question. Star Trek, famously, has the Prime Directive which, among other things, prohibits contact with planets that have yet to develop interstellar flight. Other stories have answered, "They're too far away/they're too few and far between/they're aliens, they don't communicate the way we do/they're already here, just hiding/they all died out long ago", etc. etc.

The short stories in this anthology offer various answers to the query. The most amusing so far implies we forget the visiting aliens as soon as we see them. Alien brain technology, doncha know.

What I'll likely be reading next: Stephen Baxter's Proxima was just released. He is said to be the "heir" to Arthur C. Clarke, and co-authored books with Clarke before his death. I also think Baxter has permission to write in Clarke's story universes now. This novel does not take place in any Clarkian storyverse.


I've often thought ...

...I could do some damned interesting writing under the influence of mind-altering substances. But being a total dork, I've rarely been able to get my hands on such substances (other than alcohol). Truly, I could not trip over a drug dealer if he were lying on the sidewalk in front of me.

Luckily for me, there is early morning why-am-I-not-asleep insomnia, which has (perhaps?) similar effects.

Scene countdown, 11/5/14: 93


Non Nano report

11/1: 117

11/2: 106

11/3: 100

Looks like I'm speeding along, but the scenes I'm working on will only get progressively more involved the further I go. I sorted them more or less by how much work needs to be done, so the ones I'm working on now are short, almost completed, or just need a polish. Then I will move on to longer, meandering scenes that need to be cleaned up, or are just big spaghetti messes of notes and half-written blurbs. Finally, I'll get to the ones that are basically a couple jotted outline notations and not written at all.

Fun, fun.

Not doing NaNo, but...

...I have taken the remainder of the chapters for the second draft of my novel and divided them into a bunch of little mini-scenes, 117 in all, for clean-up, double-checking, and/or composing. I am going to try to get as many finished between now and the end of December as possible.

Actually at 106 left to do after yesterday and today.


free will
If anyone's wondering what Alexis Denisof is up to these days, he is a semi-regular on Grimm now. He plays an stuffy, obnoxious prat. But who knows? Maybe he'll betray his boss, abduct an infant, grow manly facial hair, and start sleeping with a sexy lawyer.

…Actually, all of that is entirely possible.


Happy Halloween!

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Reading Thursday

What I just got done reading: I have an assignment in my writing class to read ten short stories in publications and/or the genre I want to write in. I will probably post story reviews after I turn in the assignment, but publications/online venues I've been looking at include Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Apex Magazine, Clarkesworld Magazine, Strange Horizons,, 365tomorrows, Daily Science Fiction, Encounters Magazine, Escape Pod, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, International Speculative Fiction, Jupiter, Lightspeed, Luna Station Quarterly, Nature, Pantheon Magazine, Perihelion Science Fiction, Quantum Muse, and Robot and Raygun.

What I'm reading now: Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Still. I am crawling through this book, mostly via five-minutes-a-night-right-before-sleep. At this point, I am reading it because I bought it and so I'm going to finish it (GoshDurnIt). Apparently, it is part of a series, but I'm getting the impression from where the story seems headed at 85% finished that I won't read the other books.

What I'll likely be reading next: Who knows? I'm developing a list. Some of the sci-fi has aliens, but as best as I can tell, the aliens are the end result of human exploration, rather than "they suddenly appeared, hovering over Earth menacingly," or "In the future, Earth is part of a galactic Federation...," both premises which, at the moment, make me hit the back button.

Exploration science fiction:

Titan, by Stephen Baxter
Proxima, by Stephen Baxter
Endeavour, by Ralph Kern, J Scott-Marryat
Blue Remembered Earth, by Alastair Reynolds
Crater, by Homer Hickam
2312, Kim Stanley Robinson

Edge of Infinity (anthology), by various authors
Paradox: Stories Inspired by the Fermi Paradox, by various authors

Other sci-fi:

Influx, by Daniel Suarez


Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission, by Marc Kaufman


As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes, Joe Layden, Rob Reiner
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour: A Novel, by Joshua Ferris
Reconstructing Amelia: A Novel, by Kimberly McCreight
Deception Point, by Dan Brown
Digital Fortress, by Dan Brown


Internalized self-pub-o-phobia

I have noticed an unsettling trend with myself lately. I have been doing a lot of eBook searches, looking for reading material. What I've noticed is, if I get the impression from the price/book description that a book is self-published, I have a tendency to think, "The writing is probably crap," and pass it by.

And I myself have a self-published novel.

I think we're past the point where one can assume that books that have not been accepted by a publisher are a sign of a weak writer. And yet, that lingering assumption remains in my head.

You'd think, for $2.99, or 0.99, I could take a chance on a book. I'd want a reader to do the same for me.

TV stuff

The X-Files Season 6 still remains the best-written season of the show. I am thinking especially of the stand-alones. One brilliant episode after another. So not the kind of thing you can play with the sound off while you're trying to concentrate on writing.

In the meantime, OUAT continues to have homework. I suppose the more seasons it gets, the more true that will be.


Grimm predictions

faith too
Grimm Season 4 has started out pretty well. I enjoyed seasons 2-3 as well, but my enthusiasm for the show was cemented at the end of season 3 with season 3 spoilers/season 4 speculationCollapse )


Angels and demons

Not so sure about Constantine. Not big on TV shows too closely based around the Judeo-Christian mythos. Hence my giving up on Sleepy Hollow. They're just a little too close for comfort. And anyway, spoilersCollapse )

ETA: The 100, otoh, has managed to reinvent itself, and so gets a reprieve.


Here comes tr(o)ub(e)l(e)....

(1) Had my first PT session for my neck/shoulders this AM. I was at the therapist for about an hour and a half between early arrival, paperwork, interview with the therapist, and actual therapy. Therapist did heat therapy and a massage, which was great, but also pressure point testing to find tender spots ("Ouch, there's one!") and of course taught me some "exercises to do at home" which while good for the shoulders/neck, did not make my back happy.

(2) New Grimm season starts tonight! There is something not to be grim about.

(3) I wrote another short story, 2,974 words. Class busy-ness makes me insane, but... story!

The interplanetary Bechdel Test

"Can't an astronaut wreak a little havoc without there being an alien involved?"

Still reading Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells, which got 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 1,115 raters. Honestly, I am not sure how it got that rating. The story was pretty good up to the point where spoilery for Wells, AC Clarke, J.S.A. CoreyCollapse )

But honestly, I am searching for something that just doesn't get written very often: space exploration in which humans are venturing out and the plot is classic "man-vs-nature" (I'd even settle for classic "man-vs-man" human political stuff re: outerspace), rather than OMG!Aliens.

Not that I have anything against stories with aliens, but there is a perception out there in sci-fi land that Aliens is why people want to read about space. Which isn't always the case. Sometimes, stories about space are the story of us. Human beings.

I have the Edge of Infinity anthology in my queue. It's supposed to be about colonizing our solar system. I am also searching for similar short stories in SFF periodicals. I am hoping they're not all "our solar system, plus (butofcourse) aliens."


The season finale of Manhattan got me thinking about the end game of their project. I went looking for a film I remember from years ago--a dramatized version of the events of Hiroshima from the POV of both survivors and the Enola Gay crew--but found only a BBC historical documentary on same. I watched it, and it really hit deep, no pun intended. Truly, just horrifying. For some reason, after I got done watching that, I was still on a WWII history kick re: US vs Japan, and started watching Tora, Tora, Tora. Pretty even-handed, so far, for an American film made only twenty-nine years after the events (Japanese nationals may disagree; just my observation).

What's next? Maybe something on Manzanar, or one of those Japanese prisoner-of-war camp films? Eesh. Perhaps those will get me over this weird tangent. War is all fear, blame-shifting, and lashing out; death and tears.


Pain in the neck

I have arthritis. In my knees and my back, and now my neck. For years, I've watched both my parents become increasingly disabled, and I know I am d00med. D00med. Last week, I went to my orthopedic specialist who could instantly whip me into an X-ray machine and have pictures of my skeleton popped up on the back-lit board fifteen minutes later. But diagnosis is easy. Intervention, that's harder.

Physical therapy is always their first line. Last year, I learned a series of exercises to strengthen my back. The clinic offered me a nerve-numbing procedure, but it was too expensive and painful for something that might only last six months, so I nixed that. This week, I'm returning to PT for my neck.

I'm doing what I can to change my environment. I recently got a new, ergonomic chair for work, and one of those neck-supporting pillows for my bed at home. But the chair I lounge and write in at home has GOT to be replaced. I've jury-rigged pillows to fit under my knees and under my neck and under my lumbar, all in an attempt to compensate for the chair being arthritis-unfriendly, but what I need, since I use that chair constantly and for long stretches, is something genuinely ergonomic.

Only problem is, ergonomic recliners are also mega-expensive. I am perfectly willing to spend the money on a chair that will work for me, but I have had bad experiences walking into stores, trying out chairs that seem all right on the show room floor, and then are killing me two weeks later and can't be returned (usually, because they're customized in some way).

I will ask the physical therapist for recommendations about how to buy a good ergonomic recliner, but really, I'm not optimistic.

To top that off, somehow I also managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder, and that's making sitting and turning my head even more of a pain. Will mention it to the PT.


I just can't stop my....

Am I the only one who had Lindsey McDonald flashbacks during last night's OUAT?


Oodles of Mars Comet links

This morning, I'm really flummoxed that I don't have that telescope Santa keeps promising me for Christmas. I was out ogling the early morning sky, and it was possible to see comet Siding Spring near Mars then, hours before its closest fly-by (2:27 PM EDT, 11:27 PM PDT, 18:27 GMT). That's day time in North America, and yet the real irony belongs to Australia, where the comet was originally discovered last year. The comet closest fly-by won't even be in their sky at all. The Deep Space Network dishes in Europe, the US, and Puerto Rico can watch.

The comet will scrape by Mars at a distance of 82,000 miles. That's a third of the distance between Earth and the Moon. Comet Siding Spring originates from the Oort Cloud, a cloud of comets that surrounds our sun at a distance almost quarter of the way to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

There are spacecraft in orbit of the planet Mars from the US, the European Space Agency, and India. They will all be ducked behind the far side of the planet during closest comet approach. But as they swing back around, they might still get a bit of comet dust on them. This has the potential to be very, very bad. A tiny spec of comet junk flying at enormous speed could punch holes right through an orbiting tin can like Earthling's Mars satellites.

Hopefully, though, all they'll catch are some cool photos.

The rovers on the surface of Mars will be safe due to the Martian atmosphere, but alas, the poor little guys will also experience closest fly-by during daylight hours.

Mars and Siding Spring will become visible again in North America after sunset this evening.