How Trump Happened

November 18th, 2016

We've heard the blame shifting.  We've seen the finger pointing.  By now, you've no doubt heard the theory from the Left:  Donald Trump won the election because of uneducated white males, which is liberal codespeak for racists.  Apparently, there are 60 million or so of them.

When the last shred of an argument one has is a shockingly and unfeasibly large allegation of racism, it's time to reconsider strategy.  They were wrong, so wrong it cost the Democrats everything.  Hillary Clinton must be fuming that she not only lost–she lost to Donald Trump.

Just consider that.  He's the most ridiculous and …

Life on the Road

November 15th, 2015

I recently switched careers, and I'm now training as an over-the-road trucker.  So far, it's been an intense learning experience.  Here are a few observations I'd like to pass along.

I'm driving a vehicle that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.  When that thing is moving at 65mph, it can't stop on a dime.  Physics doesn't work that way.

If you want to go faster than me, by all means pass me.  No, I want you to.  I'm travelling as quickly as conditions and the vehicle will allow.  If you do choose to pass, please make sure to leave some space before cutting in …

SETI Gets Real Funding

July 21st, 2015

Through most of our history, we've assumed we occupy a privileged and unique place in the universe.  In the 16th century, Copernicus paved the way for the understanding that we orbit but one star among many.  Over the last two centuries, we've found that we're a small part of one galaxy, and that ours is but one galaxy among billions.  If we look at those numbers, it seems ridiculous to assume ours is the only planet in that whole universe to host intelligent life.

Until the 1990's, the main counterargument was that planetary formation appeared to be limited to our sun.  That …

Pluto and Beyond

July 15th, 2015

The Voyager probes were a huge part on my childhood.  I was 7 years old when they gave us the best images of Jupiter and its moons we'd ever seen.  The following year, we received unprecedented data on Saturn.

Uranus and Neptune remained somewhat mysterious.  In the ground-based telescopes of the time, they were just big, white dots.  Voyager 2 reached Uranus when I was 14, and it revealed a more colorful, active, and strange world than we'd imagined.  Neptune was predicted to be remote, cold, and serene.  My senior year of high school, Voyager proved that expectation wrong.  Neptune is warmer than we though …

Barsoom

May 9th, 2015

The sunset, seen from the Gale Crater on Mars.

Sunset. On. Mars.

The Hugo Mess

April 5th, 2015

Science fiction is often political.  Heinlein's middle period is praised by libertarian thinkers, Star Trek promoted progressive mores and social justice, and Ursula Le Guin's work sparked debates about gender roles.  This is to be expected in a genre that often looks to the future for hope or cautionary tales.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the awards pageants are also marred by politics.  It really shouldn't.  Yet some people are crying foul because Larry Correia and and Brad Torgersen managed to dominate the nomination process for the Hugo awards.

They didn't cheat.  They simply worked the system …

More Fun with Roman History

February 14th, 2015

Picking up from yesterday, we're left with vastly differing accounts of the emperor Numerian's death.  Which is correct?  The easiest way to solve this is to run down a simple timeline.

Malalas' Chronographia makes the following claims:

Saint Babylas (then patriarch of Antioch) refused to admit an emperor to the church
the emperor executed Babylas
the emperor went to war with the Persians
said emperor was captured following a siege at Carrhae

It becomes apparent he's referencing three distinct emperors, all of whom predate Numerian by a generation.

Fun with Roman History

February 13th, 2015

I recently got around to reading Peter Heather's Fall of the Roman Empire.  It's an excellent read for the layman, and he poses some interesting debates for the historian.  One interesting theory he suggests is that the Huns had an indirect (and earlier than usually assumed) effect on Rome as their migrations forced the Goths to rush the borders and clash with the Empire.

But my area of study is the 3rd Century crisis, and that's why I noticed an odd and unorthodox account of Numerian's death.

Everyone remembers the famous emperor Numerian, right?  He's right up there with…well, don't feel badly.  They don't teach much about the 3rd century in school because it was such a mess.  Rome's borders were crumbling under the weight of Germanic invasions, and the empire was in a state of nearly constant civil war.  Dio (as in Cassius, not Ronnie James) remarked that Rome had descended "from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust."

From the death of Alexander Severus in 235 to the coronation of Diocletian in 284, there were 26 confirmed emperors and over 50 usurpers (Gallienus succeeded in winning exactly one thing in life–he had as many as thirty).  Approval by the Senate was an afterthought–the armies were the kingmakers for the empire, and their favorite generals were the only men deemed fit to rule.

I'm Five Years Old Again

November 29th, 2014

The first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is live. Here's what we've got:

John Boyega as a stormtrooper. The armor's new, and it's a first to see one of them as person. Rumor has it he's a protagonist.
A beachball-shaped R2 unit. It's less annoying tha Jar-Jar. Then again, so are head lice.
Menacing stormtroopers being airdropped somewhere. Does this mean some remnant of the Empire is still around?
Daisy Ridley riding a giant speeder bike. Is that a lightsaber lashed to the side?
A desert planet, but possibly not Tatooine. Notice the single sun in the final shot.
X-wings skimming over a …

Settling In

October 13th, 2014

Clio's making herself at home. Maia doesn't always seem to approve of the new arrangements, though.

Clio on the couch

Clio

October 8th, 2014

I've had Maia for just over two years, so it's time for a new dog.

(A companion, not a replacement. It's important to make that distinction clear when you bring your existing dog to the shelter.)

So, this is Clio.

The coloring suggests English Setter, but the nose and ears are something closer to a Labrador. We're off to the vet tomorrow to get a better idea on age and lineage.

Echopraxia by Peter Watts

September 5th, 2014

Science fiction is often divided into two main genres: soft and hard. Soft science fiction tends to be more humanistic, with a greater emphasis on traditional story and character development. Ursula Le Guin, Theodore Sturgeon, and Cordwainer Smith are good examples.

Hard science fiction tends to focus on concepts, with more weight given to scientific rigor and speculation. Its lineage stretches from Asimov and Clarke to modern authors like Greg Bear and Alastair Reynolds. It's not to say these guys can't write stories, but this is primarily a literature of ideas.

That's where Watts comes in. His books are defined by pessimism towards the future and a density of scientific detail. He wants to make a point as well as tell a story.

Next Page »