Ice on Mars

Fascinating images from the Phoenix Mars Lander show what appear to be chunks of ice disappearing from a trench the lander dug. The full story, with a nice image that toggles in a “now you see it, now you don’t” fashion, is on Spaceflight Now.

Of course, we knew Mars had ice — we’ve seen its ice caps grow and recede. But it’ll be interesting to see if the lander can analyze some of it.

So, where do we sign up to go?

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Latest from the Anti-Candidate

With their candidates all but confirmed, the Republicans and Democrats have settled down a bit — but just a bit — while the Anti-Campaign continues at its breathtakingly slow pace. Over in the forum, this morning I posted the Anti-Candidate position on Health Care, for those who are interested.

The position includes two specific ideas that would relieve some of the burden of legal costs for healthcare providers. Under the category of tort reform, and answering the question, “How could we fix this?”:

First, by disallowing every lawsuit filed against any hospital, clinic, or provider within six months of any death or other injury alleged to be a result of care. Why? Because great emotional distress affects our ability to make good decisions. A year would be better, but some period of time is needed for the family to gain some perspective on the event and decide if they believe the provider was negligent or was acting in good faith. It would be even better if cases would be summarily dismissed if the plaintiff and their legal team planned the suit during the hiatus, even if they filed after the time period expired. This wouldn’t end all ambulance-chasing, but it would reduce the number of frivolous, reactionary cases.

Second, by restricting the potential damage awards to be commensurate with the earning potential of the plaintiff and the injured party. As a (non-healthcare) example, if the hot coffee spilled in your lap will cause you to miss work, and the embarrassment of having spilled hot coffee in your lap will cause you to miss more work, then maybe you should be awarded an amount related to the amount of work you’re likely to miss. Unless you’re going to be out of work for 20 years and without your 50-grand-a-year paycheck, you shouldn’t get any million-dollar payout.

Of course, this is just an academic exercise … but it’s still fun.

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30 Thousand

Another week, another 5000 words on the novel. If I can somehow sustain this rate, I might be finished with the first draft of MARE NUBIUM by Explorers’ Day.*

Shoot, I’ll be thrilled to make it by Halloween, if that means getting it cleaned up and submission-ready by New Year’s.


*My preferred name for Columbus Day.

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Proud Papa

Father’s Day weekend, so I’ll get right to the point: I’m really proud of my young-uns.

Today we picked up our daughter after four weeks as a production assistant on an independent film. That’s four weeks in the farm country of northeast North Carolina, in the middle of which she went to the emergency room for heat exhaustion. And they liked her work so much they changed her unpaid internship to a paid position.

And as I type this, our son is performing at his first paying musical gig: he’s playing violin at a wedding with some other members of the high school chamber group. He’s done some charity gigs before with the band he formed at church (Clantannin), but this is his first time driving to an out-of-town gig and coming home with money.

My kids are cool. Pity I can’t take the credit for their coolness.

But I’m proud of ’em.

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Mini-Rant on Copy Editing

I wasn’t an English major, but I had a few good English teachers through the years who gave me an appreciation for proper use of the language. As such, I guess I became enough of a language purist that it bothers me to see a drop in the quality of copy editing in published works.

I don’t mean the stylistic choices that authors make, or even the words that authors make up — I’ve done that myself, and I like what Orson Scott Card said about it to our Literary Boot Camp class: “I’m a writer, it’s a word if I say it’s a word.” What has bothered me recently is seeing too many wrong words, usually homophones*, left in the text.

I understand the editing process can be lengthy and we’re all human — as I mentioned, I wasn’t an English major so I’m not sure about some of the rules (and I don’t remember much of the terminology). Sometimes an author can catch errors and the publisher chooses not to fix them because of cost, as happened with my book. But sometimes the copy editor just blows it.

Is it too much to ask for a copy editor to know that “led” is the past tense of “lead” (as opposed to the soft metal, “lead”), and that an archer would have someone in their “sights” (connoting vision) rather than their “sites” (locations)?

*Like homonyms, but they just sound alike.

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DRAGONFORGE, by James Maxey

Finished reading DRAGONFORGE today, on the plane from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham, and I must say my friend James Maxey has crafted a tight, compelling story that picks up where his excellent BITTERWOOD left off. I thoroughly enjoyed DRAGONFORGE — but how could I not enjoy a book in which one of the leading characters is a dragon named Graxen the Gray?

Seriously, James did a great job expanding and enriching the future world he described in BITTERWOOD. I haven’t been reading much SF or F recently, because I see quite enough in the slush pile that already distracts from writing my SF novel, but I’m glad I read DRAGONFORGE to be reminded of what good genre fiction is supposed to be.

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Yesterday I passed the 25,000-word mark on MARE NUBIUM, which for me is pretty good progress for a week. Considering the time I spend at my two jobs, I don’t know that I can maintain that pace (this week I had the advantage of some concentrated time in a hotel room). I’m going to try not to get down on myself if I slow down a bit — so long as I don’t stall out again.

The good thing is, given my 100,000-word target, this means I’m roughly a fourth of the way through the thing. But now I should quit with the blog entry and try to get a few words in. 😉

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USAF Shake-Up

Wow — I was shocked this morning to see that both the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General “Buzz” Moseley, and the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne, resigned yesterday. (Story here.) Had I seen the news yesterday, I just would’ve been shocked a few hours earlier.

I consider it a great shame that General Moseley was forced to resign — I didn’t have many dealings with him when I was on the Air Staff,* but he always struck me as a straight-up guy. My fondest memory is of chatting with him in the little connecting hallway between the D and E rings of the Pentagon, where he urged me to insert some random Mandarin Chinese characters into a speech I’d written for Mr. Peter Teets — the Under Secretary at the time — just to see how Mr. Teets would react.

Mr. Wynne, on the other hand, I never understood. I had even fewer dealings with him than with Gen Moseley, but my observations from afar showed me a man who was possibly too smart for the practical realities of the job. I got that impression when, as one of his first initiatives as Secretary, he decided to update (or revamp, or otherwise tinker with) the Air Force Mission and focus less on the traditional elements of flying, fighting, and winning the nation’s wars than on delivering “sovereign options.” I still scratch my head over that one.

Of course, this difficult situation is made even worse by the fact that the Air Force has been without an Under Secretary for months now. (It’s similar to when I was there, and they tapped Mr. Michael Dominguez to be the Acting Secretary. I enjoyed writing for him; some of us thought he would make a good SecAF.) I saw this afternoon that the SecDef was going to recommend a new nominee to President Bush, but it will be exceedingly strange for someone to be nominated and confirmed for the last few months of the Presidential term. I suspect there will be another Acting SecAF for awhile; I wish them luck.

*Full disclosure: I worked in the Secretary & Chief of Staff’s Executive Action Group from 2004 until my retirement in 2006.

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YouTube, MeTube

I didn’t expect to make the cut (which may mean there wasn’t a cut), but there I am on the “videoblog” fantasy author Gail Z. Martin made at ConCarolinas. Here’s the YouTube link. I’m the last person she talked to that day, right after GOH Mike Resnick.

Surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle used to say. And of course I didn’t take the opportunity to plug my web site. Ol’ dopey me.

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63% Oppose NC Forced Service Law

So far, that is, according to poll results I saw this morning on I haven’t seen any news stories on this the past couple of days, so I’m not sure what’s going on with it in the legislature, but I have seen a few other comments on the web. It seems the word is getting out; hopefully that translates to a few people letting the legislature know how they feel about it. (Thanks to those who already have!)

Those poll results, if you’re interested, are here. My original blog entry has a link to the sponsoring state senator’s office, if you want to let them know how you feel about the idea.

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