Thursday, March 15, 2018

Robot bee apocalypse

I found this at The Passive Voice.  It's an article from Big Think about a patent filed by Walmart for robot bees.

Now, this is the part where we all say to ourselves: why would anyone want to build robot bees?  Well, here you go:

The patent outlines how tiny autonomous “pollination drones” would use sensors to locate crops, transport pollen, and verify which crops have been successfully pollinated.

So it's for farming purposes.  Makes sense, I guess.

Still, though... we all know it's only a matter of time before the robot bees turn on their human masters.  From Frankenstein to Skynet, sentient creations always turn on their creators.  It's like a natural law or something.  When it happens, we'll get to experience the chaos of the Bee Revolution, the riots of the Night of the Big Swarms, and the horrific oppression of the Reign of Stingers.

And that will be the end of human liberty.  Done in by freakin' robot bees.

Toys-R-Us is shutting its doors

All 800 of them.

Toys R Us, once the country’s preeminent toy retailer, has been unable to keep up with big-box and online competitors.

It's sad, and the end of an era.  Either I'm getting old, or change is happening too rapidly for us all to keep up the way we used to.

Amazon and Walmart better not get complacent, or else they'll suffer the same fate.  I say that knowing full well that they'll eventually get complacent.  It's the cyclical nature of things.  Entropy comes for all.  But the longer they can hold out, the better for everyone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Stephen Hawking has passed away

He was 76 years old.

I've only read one of his books, and that was over two decades ago.  It was Black Holes and Baby Universes.  I don't remember much of it, but I remember just how important his discovery was concerning Hawking Radiation.  Prior to that, black holes were immortal monsters that only got bigger and more powerful until all things in the universe were consumed.  Hawking's theory liberated us from the that terror.  Black holes are now more like everything else: lesser gods in a pantheon ruled by entropy.

And, of course, Hawking was an inspiration to anyone with Lou Gehrig's Disease.  That diagnosis was terribly demoralizing to him--as it would be for anyone--but he didn't let it keep him from doing great things in the realm of physics.

R.I.P., Mr. Hawking.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Are we really better off?

Back in the 1980s, we didn't have the multitude of electronic devices that we have today.  The internet existed, but it was a thing most people had never heard of let alone actually used.  For us kids, the larger world was only what we saw on television, read about in the newspaper, and learned about in school.

On the one hand, this made learning and research a lot more difficult.  If one wanted to know something, one had to use the library.  And the library wasn't open at all hours.  And its selection of material was seriously limited.  Compared to now, it was a terrible time--a veritable Dark Age--for the dissemination of knowledge.

On the other hand, we were allowed to make mistakes.  Our minor faux pas didn't follow us around for the rest of our lives.  And they certainly weren't broadcast on the internet for all the world to see.  When we did "stupid kid stuff," we were allowed to put it behind us and get on with our lives.  We weren't weighed down with irremovable albatrosses.  Today, kids who don't color completely within the lines of social acceptance get pilloried mercilessly, sometimes resulting in suicide.  I remember a kid committing suicide when I was in high school, but it didn't have anything to do with the sort of public shaming that goes on nowadays.  (It was accidental and drug-related.)

So we've gained knowledge and communicative connectivity, but we've also gained an enormous amount of societal stress.  I'm not sure which one outweighs the other.  One thing I'm certain of is that the rate of technological change is too fast to be socially sustainable.  We've already seen plenty of warning signs.  There will be a correction at some point, just like what happens periodically in financial markets, and it won't be pretty.

But I suppose that's the nature of humanity.  Rise and fall, rise and fall.  Just like those "The Course of Empire" paintings by Thomas Cole.

I don't know why I felt the need to mention all this.  Just needed to mope a little, I guess.  Sorry for being such a downer today.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Progress report

This third book in the series is proving to be the most violent so far.  It was to be expected, of course, because the war's in full swing now, but still...

I'm 31,000 words in and on page 5 of a 13-page outline.  That's right on target, so I'm pleased.

In other news, I'm working on book covers for the later books.  I've got the covers for books 3 and 4 done, so I'm currently working on the one for book 5.  I'm still not happy with it, but I'm getting closer.  This cover design stuff does not come easy for me, and it takes many iterations before I can create something I can live with.  That's why I have to start on them long in advance.

I've got a couple of Kobo promotions coming up next week.  That retailer's still basically a dead zone for me, but the last promotion there netted several sales, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

All right, enough dawdling.  Back to the space battle.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Battle scenes are fun, but tough

Battle scenes are fun because you get swept up in the action.  The problem is that it's really easy to write in a plot hole or some other kind of goof.  These kinds of scenes require more self-discipline than usual, at least in my experience.

Progress on book 3 is still slow.  I've got about 26k words in, I think.  On the other hand, I've already killed off tens of millions of people, so things are happening.  Right now I'm in the middle of a Calael-POV scene.  I had to stop and give it some thought, though, because my outline didn't detail this scene very well.  I'm still trying to figure out how I want to do it.

I've got a detailed outline and cover made for book 4, but that's as far as I've gotten.  My outlines for books 5-8 are sketchy and still need to be fleshed out.  And I've still got to make covers for those books.

Free advice: If you're ever thinking about writing some epic series with a huge cast of characters, don't try to have a lot of characters.  Just make them up as you need them, not before.  Because in my experience, you'll naturally end up with more characters than you would have predicted you'd have.  The "huge cast" thing sort of takes care of itself.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Thanks to Patty and the readers

I saw a noticeable spike in sales of Caverns of Mercury over the weekend.  A big thanks to Patty Jansen for promoting my work.

To those who purchased during the 99-cent sale: thanks for your support, and I hope you enjoy the book.