Monday, April 30, 2012

Amazon Spoiler

This is the biggest spoiler I’ve ever seen., to advertise it’s Kindle, put up a huge blackboard in Washington, D.C. showing a Kindle displaying the first page of Mockingjay, the third volume of the Hunger Games trilogy.  Oops, it reveals major plot points for the story. 


I guess the marketing people for Amazon just don’t read books that much.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Online Discipline

I read an interesting article today.  Apparently a thirteen year-old daughter lipped off at her mother.  The mother changed the daughter’s Facebook profile to show her with a red X over her mouth, and the following words on the screen:

"I do not know how to keep my (mouth shut). I am no longer allowed on Facebook or my phone. Please ask why. My mom says I have to answer everyone that asks."

Parents are not helpless in this new digital age.  The hard part isn’t keeping the controls on things like Facebook; it’s getting parents to do anything they fear might be confrontational or that would impinge on the self-esteem of their children.   

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Sara Loudon, who previously appeared on this blog in period dress, had her students at Covenant Christian Middle School perform the play The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Below are a few pictures I snapped.  

A faun introduces Narnia to Lucy

Two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve

Aslan contemplates his imminent death, 
with only Susan and Lucy to accompany him

The girls are in awe of the risen Aslan

Believe it or not, I used my flash on the first picture, but not on the others.  I think what happened was the flash lit up the backs of people’s heads in the audience (which I cropped out), making the players in the first picture look darker by comparison.  I decided not to use my flash for the rest, with the resulting lack in contrast.  Live and learn.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hunger Games Soundtrack

On occasion, I listen to music while I write.  I tend to listen to instrumental music for this, so I can recommend the soundtrack to The Hunger Games

There are songs out there dedicated to the story’s District 12, but this is the soundtrack I enjoyed while watching the movie—I liked the folk nature of the music. 

I can also recommend the soundtrack for Twelfth Night—as a bonus, it features Ben Kingsley singing. 

Another soundtrack I’ve listened to while writing is from Braveheart

Mad Mel doesn’t sing in it, but it has beautiful music.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Microsoft Resignation Video

Here’s how one woman resigned from Microsoft.  Don’t worry, it’s a friendly video, set to American Pie.  Lyrics are below. 

Long, long lines of code
It can take a while for Excel code to compile
I am glad I've had the chance
To make the cells and numbers dance, and maybe make some customers smile
But the time has come to close this chapter, beer and chips and hallway laughter
Feelin' a little blue, I will miss my feature crew
Sound of typing and mouse clicks, taco Fridays in 36
Now it's time for me to go
Goodbye, product studio

So bye, bye Excel and I
It's been 3 good years, oh how time has flown by
With devs in the hall drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singin' forever recalc or die, forever recalc or die

Together we made Excel 15,
And we bleed proud forever green, for the world's calc machine
Gotta listen to my heart it knows
Time to shake up my status quo, I am hopping on a plane to San Francisco
The next time that I touch a spec will be at a startup called Exec
My PM days have expired, I've taken a job as a designer
My last day is the 24th, please see me for anything you need before
And after that don't disappear, please do contact me here.

So bye, bye Excel and I
It's been 3 good years, oh how time has flown by
With devs in the hall drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singin, Forever recalc or die.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Space Battles—Push, don’t vaporize

A fascinating article tells of how a University of Washington professor claims off-the-shelf technology could generate plasma beams that a space shuttle or space station could use to clear all the space junk orbiting Earth that are so hazardous to space missions.  But instead of vaporizing a piece of orbiting junk, the impact from the beam would push the object down into our atmosphere, where it would harmlessly vaporize. 

Photo by BOY 

This could serve as a more realistic description of space battles in novels.  Sure, if you hit an enemy spaceship with something the size of a can of beans traveling an appreciable fraction of the speed of light, the resulting explosion would be larger than the biggest nuclear explosion man has ever made so far.  But that takes really good aim.

A beam can be easily shifted around until it hits the target.  This could deflect enemy missiles, if it wasn’t powerful enough to explode them.  More to the point, such a beam could strike an enemy ship to divert its course, or even turn it topsy-turvy.  This would make it extremely difficult for the enemy to maintain a coordinated attack.

Think of the scenes in Star Trek: TNG and later series.  They would have the sound effect of an impact, the actors would all sway to the left, for instance, then right themselves.  That motion is actually based on ships at sea, where they tend to right themselves after being tipped.  But ships in space are not in water, so there would be no reason to expect the ship to automatically right itself.  (I know that in Star Trek they have those magical inertial dampeners, but it’s a stretch to think they’re automatically setting everything right again.)  The tendency of a ship in vacuum would be to keep tipping the same way, i.e., to rotate after being struck.  If the impact caused severe deformation to the hull, some of the crew would be kept busy preventing possible atmospheric leaks.

The old Star Trek series had scenes with a closer approach to realism, because they sometimes showed crew members getting hurled from their seats.  And I remember a scene in Voyager where the whole ship went end-over-end during a battle.  Such dramatic action scenes that allow the crew to survive can now be written with realistic plasma beams involved, instead of being chalked up to force fields that repel immense forces, for which we have no scientific basis.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Norwescon III —Professional Help and More Pics

MaryRobinette Kowal gave me a lesson in public reading—assuming I get published and end up reading an excerpt from a novel at a convention.  She pointed out a vocal tic I have, as well as good exercises to do for reading the voices of different characters. 

Rhiannon Held read an excerpt from her novel, Silver, coming out soon.  She does a good job of public reading, and the hotel conference room was fascinated by her excerpt. 

As far as fun pictures are concerned, here’s a Next Generation fan: 

Also, Terehskova 2001 showed up again, this time as Padmé Amidala.  

I’ll have more pictures on occasion in future posts.  

[Permission granted to use any photo on this post, so long as it is labeled “Photo by Mark Murata”] 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Norwescon II —Stalking Terehskova and others

According to Tereshkova 2001’s tweet, she would be at Norwescon.  I hoped to get a picture of her this year. 

While I was sitting in a hallway, she happened to walk past.  This supports the theory that if you stay in one place long enough, the whole world will pass by.  And it doesn’t even count as stalking. 

I had seen her last year at Worldcon in Reno, and my post from August of last year shows my previous picture of her.  Some resemblance, wouldn’t you say?  

In the same hallway, I saw a woman dressed as a fairy. 

Obviously, people put a lot of work into their costumes for cosplay (costume play). 

Also, Jean Johnson, the author of A Soldier’s Duty, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award for best new science fiction paperback.  I’ve heard her do public readings before, and she read an excerpt from her book.  

Although she didn’t win, she said she’s received correspondence from active duty military of all sorts of ranks telling her how the book resonates with them.  

[Permission granted to use any photo on this post, so long as it is labeled “Photo by Mark Murata”] 

Norwescon I — Banquet

For the first time, I paid an extra $40 and went to the Guest of Honor Banquet at Norwescon.  In addition to a sumptuous meal, each guest of honor was introduced, including Bridget Landry, a scientist who worked on the Mars Pathfinder project, and was responsible for our seeing some of the astounding videos sent back from Mars.   She went around with a bare midriff.  Her picture is below (midriff not included). 

Sitting at my table was a couple who brought their fourteen year-old daughter with them.  Here was a case of a family having fun together at a convention where they could meet people who share their interests.  Aren’t they photogenic?  

Thursday, April 5, 2012


I’m going to be at Norwescon in Seattle this weekthe largest science fiction convention in the Pacific Northwest, Thursday through Saturday.  If you see me, come up and say hello. 

I have new business cards with the QR code for this blog on it, so I’ll see how that works in terms of passing them out.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Helm of Invisibility

This is an excerpt from one of my Athena novels.  She and Perseus have retrieved the helm of invisibility from Hades. 

            Perseus pointed.  “Why do you move your fingers so?  Does it hurt them?” 
            Athena had lowered the helm to get a better look at it, and realized she was shifting her fingers around.  “I don’t like the sight of my fingers against its hungry darkness.  Makes me uncomfortable.  And the feel of it—not any kind of metal I know, like bronze or lead or iron.  And it’s not wood.  But it’s very light.  Well, time to test its power.” 
            She fitted it over her head.  She immediately disliked it—the way it muffled her ears, so she could no longer hear the wind against the bluff.  And it pressed against the upper part of her head, smashing down her hair.  But what demanded her attention was Perseus’ reaction. 
            The muscles of his arms were taut, as if he was facing a threat. 
            He had taken a step back in surprise, and now he looked like he was seeing an innocent-looking traveler who had suddenly produced a knife.  Athena looked down, could still see her body, could still see the fierce sunlight beating on her armor.  It was a funny question, but unavoidable.  “Can you see me?” 
            Perseus didn’t answer.  He took another step—this time to the side, showing caution rather than surprise.  He tilted his head, as if trying to see her from a different angle. 
            Does it muffle sound?  “Can you hear me?” 
            “Yes.”  Perseus’ eyes shifted.  “You vanished when you put it on.  It’s . . . unsettling to answer someone who isn’t there.” 
            “Can’t you see the sunlight reflecting off the bronze?” 
            “No.  Nothing.” 
            “Keep looking.”  Athena decided to try something.  Stepping lightly, so her feet didn’t leave any impression in the sand, she walked around Perseus until she was directly behind him.  “Here I am.” 
            He whirled on her.  Eyes darting about, his elbows and knees were slightly bent—an unmistakable fighting stance.  His right hand reached towards his left thigh, then he seemed to think better of it. 
            A knife?  “What are you doing?”  

If you want to see what a fun place Hades can be, you might want to read about how Athena met Persephone

Monday, April 2, 2012

Battlestar Galactica: Images of the Feminine

As I said in my previous post on the Science Fiction Museum’s Battlestar Galactica exhibit, I’ll now show you contrasting images of the feminine from the series. 

Below is the red dress that Number 6 sometimes wore. 

As you can see from the placard beside it, they were careful to sculpt the mannequin to reflect the look of Number 6 in the series.  Notice how closely it drapes to the classic hourglass figure that Number 6 displayed. 

In contrast, below is the flight jumpsuit that Starbuck wore in the series. 

Notice the utilitarian nature of it, down to the waterproof pocket on the left thigh for carrying strategic paperwork.  The jumpsuit might be unisex in its overall design, but each individual suit has to be fitted to the pilot to avoid bulkiness.  In its own way, it reflects Starbuck’s hourglass figure, including the muscular nature of her upper body. 

Two images of the feminine.  Both featured prominently in the series.  Both are legitimate.  What goes through your mind as you meditate on the contrasts?  


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