Monday, 8 October 2012

Waiting for liftoff

SpaceX is launching its second mission to the International Space Station in about an hour and I will certainly be watching and cheering if all goes smoothly.

This mission is important as it will develop confidence that the first successful mission was not just luck. SpaceX is the first purely non-governmental organisation launching returnable spacecraft into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). It makes a lot of sense being able to hand LEO missions to private enterprise and free up NASA to develop bolder and riskier long term goals like manned missions to Mars, or beyond...

I find it a bit depressing that this will go with barely a blip in the media.

But, no worries!

For instance, stories about the hijinks of that perennial dickhead Alan Jones will continue to run and run and run and run... It is, after all the responsibility of the media to report on the IMPORTANT things in life.


UPDATE. 'Twas a perfect launch. :-) ISS here comes Dragon. Alan Jones who?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A bridge too far

As most people will have noticed, there has been a lot of kerfuffle in recent days about a really badly made video ('Innocence of Muslims') made in the United States, that is insulting to Islam - not that that is particularly hard to do.

And there have been riots around the world about it. Islamic fundamentalists are out there, doing what they do best, and the global death toll so far is reported as 9.

Over a really poorly made YouTube video.

I have watched some of it, and it is painful. Its sins against the crafts of acting and film-making greatly outnumber those against the long deceased prophet of Islam.

And so it came to pass that the Islamic fundie community of Sydney said: "Me too!" and collectively went off and practised their democratic right to protest.

Good for them. It is indeed their right as citizens of this country to do that.

Then I saw this sign.

Whilst I am pretty sure this is just testosterone fuelled bluster, I am not sure that the waver of this particular sentiment actually deserves to BE in this country. It crosses a line, into an area of religious insanity the vast majority of Australians would have absolutely no time for. This 'sentiment' is plain evil, and is hopefully just as abhorrent to the mainstream Islamic community here.


Am I overreacting?

A bit of a tidy up.

I haven't posted anything new here in several months and I feel guilty about that. It isn't as if I have a huge readership holding their collective breaths waiting for me to publish - I would be lucky if my faithful reader numbered in more than a single digit.

But as this is as close as I have ever come to maintaining a diary, I feel it is my duty to try and continue.

Looking back, I also see that my style falls into the trap of being an "angry old white guy." And for the most part I guess that is pretty true, but that particular persona is WAY too common on the 'net. Time for a new look.

Although it goes against the warts and all nature of a true diary, I have cleaned out a few of my more recent posts, and have resolved to put the "cranky self-righteous smartarse" to one side. At least, most of the time.

Another motivation to get back into my blog is that a few months back I finally did something I have consistently failed to do for decades:

I have finally learned to touch-type.

I may not be particularly fast, but I can do it, and this is a great way to practise...

Monday, 1 August 2011

The day the nanobot came Clem had himself a hoot

[This was written for - where stories are limited to 1024 characters] 

Clem was resting on a log the day the nanobot came. It arrived in a spaceship the size of a tiny carrot. The nanobot quickly rearranged the atoms of its ship into another nanobot.

“Ain’t you the cutest little fellers!” enthused Clem, as 2 became 4.

The 4 then set about rearranging some of the atoms in Clem’s log. Soon 8 became 16.

Clem belly-laughed a treat. “You guys sure are somethin’!” he drawled as 16 became 32. Then 64.

After a little while the nanobots started on the atoms of the tree beside Clem and 2048 became 4096. Amazed in a truly simple way, Clem watched the tree dissolve into nanobots. He was still being amazed as 1048576 nanobots inevitably surrounded him and turned him into 2097152 nanobots.

Three hours later, the rest of the Earth had been efficiently converted into nanobots. This substantial cloud then morphed into little spaceships and headed back out again in search of even tastier worlds.

Bon app├ętit!

...and a bag of hammers please!

[This was written for - where stories are limited to 1024 characters]

Peter was securely strapped to the gurney. Unable to move his body, Peter surveyed this new and exciting life experience.

To Peter’s left, ten thousand poison tipped arrows, nestled in ten thousand straining, drawn bows, all pointing ominously at his head and body. To Peter’s right two hundred primed and flickering flame throwers were trained on him with matching terrible accuracy. Above Peter’s head, ten enormous carbon steel axes, sharpened to spine chopping perfection hung from a single hair trigger.

The releases for all three of these dire contrivances connected back to a tiny green button positioned one inch in front of Peter’s nose.

Peter’s mind ratcheted up another notch to process this unexpected turn of events in his awe filled life. Peter wondered if he’d get laid today. Peter wondered what would happen if he pressed the green button.

Peter was not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

A few seconds later Peter’s life troubles were over.

Over here, over there, and over…

Oh, never mind.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Bitter End

[This was written for - where stories are limited to 1024 characters]

When galaxies cross paths, stars rarely collide, astronomers say. But we were not warned about the collateral damage.

The city street is full of people, women, men, children, wanderers. No one smiles. No child laughs. All are joyless. Without hope. Doomed.

The twin stars shine down without mercy. The Sun. Our Sun which has nurtured our species and fostered all life on our beautiful planet, over millennia. And then there is Giselle

Giselle! A tiny star of beauty from the Andromeda Galaxy which for hundreds of thousands of years has been merging with our Milky Way. We were told Giselle was not dangerous – she was not on a collision course with our Sun. They spoke the truth. What they did not mention (at first) was that Giselle would be captured into a highly elliptical orbit around our star. Our Sun. A cosmic ballet began.

That was 5,435 years ago.

And in 17 years, 42 days, 21 hours and 58 minutes Giselle will finally cross the path of, and utterly consume our Earth.

All are joyless. Without hope. Doomed…

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Just Don't Do This, OK?

[This was written for - where stories are limited to 1024 characters]

Einstein always said that space was curved. Well, all right then. With the help of a little basic quantum physics (is there any other kind?), I built my new house into the fourth spacial dimension.

I now stand in the hallway that runs through my house, and find myself staring at my own back, fifty feet away. So I pursue, er, me. Breaking into a brisk trot I cannot catch up to me. Darn, but I run nice!
Stop! Turn around! Again! AGAIN! No matter how fast I turn, I am still staring at my own back.

I roll a ball towards me. Helpfully, I spread my legs wide, and I do the same. I can see the ball going cleanly between my legs, as a ball rolls gently through mine.

Damn it, I want to see my face!

An IDEA! Grabbing a small mirror, I lift it up and over me, so that I can see the smug face of me behind me.

There are some things that can snap one’s sanity like a twig.

In the elevated mirror I could now see an unbroken line of me’s, stretching out to infinity, all with a look of instant overwhelming terror…

* * *

Prompted by Anonymous, I'll add that this tiny story is inspired by Robert Heinlein's very fine short story 'And He Built a Crooked House'. I had made this attribution on the Ficly version, but forgot to add it here. Naughty me. ;-)


[This was written for - where stories are limited to 1024 characters] 

Major Peter Burns finished his spacewalk, and holding onto a rail, unhooked his tether.

It was so unfair – at that moment there was a flash of light as a smiling crew member took his photo through a nearby port. Surprised, Peter jerked up, and his helmet hit a strut. He recoiled, losing his grip.
To his dismay, he was now four feet from the grip and drifting away.

But he was already dead, Peter knew. Four feet was no closer now than four thousand feet, or four thousand miles and the vast sphere of the Earth waited patiently behind him.

* * *
Becky leaned on the fence. Her dad, Joe, leaned next to her and they studied the night sky. They’d seen five in the last hour and were keen for more.

A streak of light started in the west, suddenly flared and smoothly spanned the sky before guttering towards the east a few seconds later.

“Wow! That’s the best one all night!”

Becky pondered.

“Daddy? What are shooting stars made of?”

Joe smiled, happy to impart fatherly knowledge.

“Oh, rocks I guess, Honey.”

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


[This was written for - where stories are limited to 1024 characters]

Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Federation starship ‘Enterprise’ materialized on the surface of the planet ‘51 Pegasi d’ and was immediately arrested.

Somewhat surprised by this, Kirk stammered, “I haven’t done anything. What is my crime?”

As luck would have it, the Ruling Council of this particular planet had just passed a law declaring that personnel transporters were a criminal technology which merely destroyed, then duplicated those who foolishly stepped into them. It had been determined that metadata in the transport waveform could be used to reveal the number of times a single individual had previously been ‘teleported.’

“Kirk-666, by order of the High Council of Federated Planet ‘51 Pegasi d’, you are hereby charged with being an accessory to six-hundred and sixty-five counts of First Degree Murder…”

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Horror! The rampant stupidity of American culture!

Americans, look away. I am about to trash your spotty teenaged male offspring...

Ok. This is an over-reaction mainly, to one of the many sins against humanity perpetrated by the American film industry. I briefly here considered trying to create a suitable acronym for them with 'DICKHEADS', but lost interest.

So, who is the main audience of this once mighty industry? That's right: the aforementioned spotty teenaged American male offspring. And they have been so for many years.

I think I will apply an acronym for spotty teenaged American male offspring though, to save some typing. Let's call them STAMO's.

STAMO's sustain Hollywood, and films are shaped in their image. One of the best places to glimpse the average STAMO mind is in user reviews at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Words like 'SUX' or 'AWESOME!!!' abound.

The focus of my present ire was when I came across a review for a 1972 horror-science fiction film called 'Night of the Lepus.' This film is based on a book by Australian author Russell Braddon called 'The Year of the Angry Rabbit', written in 1964. I read this book many years ago and it has always remained a favorite.

Briefly, it is a political black comedy, in which Australian scientists while trying to find a way to defeat a rabbit plague, accidentally discover a 'super-myxamatosis' drug which is ironically harmless to rabbits but lethal to humans. An attempt to kill the infected rabbits with an atomic bomb creates super mutant giant lethal rabbits, in an important subplot. Meanwhile the somewhat opportunistic Prime Minister of Australia, with a personality rather like Bob Hawke, successfully spooks the rest of the world with the Super-myx' virus and Australia becomes the world's controlling super power. To give the world's political leaders and military forces something to do, he rents out Central Australia as the world's battlefield, and makes a fortune. All is good for Oz, but the giant bunnies are on the move...

I just love this book. So, what happens, when Hollywood gets its claws onto it? With the STAMO's in mind, the concept of 'giant mutant killer bunnies' is retained AND THE ENTIRE PLOT IS THROWN AWAY, replaced with a dismally silly tale of Texas (not Australian) ranchers being attacked by giant mutant bunnies. And I have seen it and it reeks.

My ire? There are 95 user reviews of the film on IMDb. Only one knew the story of the book and was suitably horrified. The rest made Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd jokes. One insulted Russell Braddon for being on drugs when he wrote it. But of course, he DIDN'T write it. Some hollywood hack did that. And the credits proudly state the film is based on 'The Year of the Angry Rabbit' by Russell Braddon...


My hard cover edition of the book is a treasured possession. And I take some heart that this mostly forgotten and unfairly vilified book will cost you $179 if you get it from Amazon... :-)

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