Category Archives: Brain Salad

27 Feb

Thank you, Mr. Nimoy. Your portrayal of a mixed race person had a big impact on me.

It’s not often that I am struck by the passing of a celebrity. I don’t often feel I need to weigh in. I certainly don’t feel like I had any special connection to that person. Certainly when celebrities that are in the common consciousness who are my age pass, I feel the shiver of mortality, but that’s usually it.

But the news today that Leonard Nimoy had passed had an impact.

I wasn’t a devoted trekker, or trekkie, or what have you. But Spock was one of the first times I saw a living example of a pro-science, pro-rational point of view in a character on a screen who wasn’t the evil scientist.

It was the first time in my life I’d seen a protagonist, a hero, be like that. Spock had a huge impact on my nascent scientific world view, giving me permission to explore a scientific worldview. It took a long time for me to go all in on that, but he was the first that made if feel it was safe.

I’m probably not alone in geek-dom there.

But where Spock really hit me in the feels was when I encountered more about him in occasional re-runs and some of the books.

Spock was half human and half Vulcan. Humans took one look at him and ‘saw’ Vulcan, and coded as such. And Vulcans ‘knew’ he wasn’t really Vulcan because of his invisible human-ness.

Spock was bi-racial. But he didn’t look like a half-human half Vulcan. He coded as Vulcan.

For someone who looked white, but was bi-racial, that had a huge impact on me. Spock was the closest thing I had ever seen in my life, even to this day, to a role model. As a kid, it blew my mind. There was Spock and that was it as far as ‘light not white’ me.

Spock struggling with trying to be accepted by Vulcans and humans, both sides of which kind of pushed him away a bit. That hit me in all the feels. Spock finding his own path, being just awesome as himself. Crewing with a bunch of people who all looked different than him and being down with it. Putting up with being teased for being too rational with calm and equanimity.

Yeah it was all fiction. Cardboard props and bullshit.

But telling a story about a possible path helps.

When I was a kid I was smart enough to be clever. And as John Scalzi famously noted, the failure mode of clever is ‘asshole.’ I fell into some of that. Wanting to be the Dr. House mode of smart, dismissive of stupidity and willing to push through solutions because of your own smarts. And I apologize to all those I hurt while trying to be clever.

As I got older, I realized I wanted to be more like Spock. Smart, but hard-working smart and with genuine warmth. Yes, he’s cold rational. But he’s not rational in the ‘toss you out the airlock’ way. He’s rational in the ‘dies to save the crew even though they’re not as smart as him’ way. He used his intelligence as a tool to try and create a universe that they could all be in. He made friends out of a diverse crew on the bridge. He was even close friends with the womanizing asshole of a captain that ran the ship and who had to often bail out of trouble, because even Kirk had good qualities and challenged Spock to broaden his experiences and grow as thinking creature, to see other modes and solutions, adding to his abilities.

He chose not to reject either side of his identity, but embrace them and synthesize something new out of them (yeah, I know not all the media were perfect about handling this aspect, but seeing it exist at all, when people like myself were/still are invisible, was water in the desert for me).

So, thank you Leonard Nimoy for playing Spock. And for bringing that person to life. Thank you for a great life lived, and continuing to engaged with all the people that loved this thing.

I will do my best to live long and prosper, and to try and always be a friend. There are worse things to try and live up to.

Addendum: I was pointed out this amazing article where Mr. Nimoy writes a letter to a dispirited bi-racial woman in the 1960s who was struggling, and found common ground with Spock.

Now I have double the feels knowing that he was aware of this and wrote letters like this.

04 Feb

I’m digging on this computer generated video of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy

I really dig this generated video of what SpaceX is hoping the Falcon Heavy launch later this year will look like:

If SpaceX’s latest offering is as advertised, the Falcon Heavy should be capable of generating some 3.969 million lbs (17,615 kilonewtons) worth of thrust at liftoff. Shortly after the 27 Merlin 1D engines power the booster and its precious cargo off of the pad, the three booster cores will throttle back, not long after the two outer booster cores will detach, falling back to Earth (or, potentially, fly back) leaving the central core to throttle back up to full power.

(Via SpaceX: Falcon Heavy poised to fly this year – SpaceFlight Insider.)

And the next big launch is in 4 days, apparently. Hoping attempt number two to fly the booster back and land it on the drone ship works.

08 Dec

They as a pronoun

I’ve noticed some reviews catch that I do my best to adopt they and them as a neutral pronoun. I’ve seen Zir and Ze around, but I’m not sure if that’ll take off. Them and they for a neutral works. Whether or not a character is gender neutral, I prefer to try to keep the character reference neutral. If the character’s gender is truly unknown, it seems fair.

It looks like it’s something younger generations are doing, and their teachers are trying to catch up:

As language catches up with culture, new pronouns have been invented to acknowledge gender-variant identities. Just as importantly, the gender-neutral plural pronoun “they” and its inflected forms, “them”, “their”, “themselves” (and “themself”!), are being used to refer to one person. To mark gender inclusivity, “they” has arrived at the party.

(Via ‘They’ has arrived at the pronoun party | Opinion | Times Higher Education.)

Though I’d submit in SF/F and other circles questions about non-gendered pronouns have been floating around a while.

addendum: Good point by David Thomas Moore on twitter:

25 Oct

I had no idea: Sweden’s deadly subs

This is a fairly fascinating tale of military leapfrogging:

Sweden Has A Sub That’s So Deadly The US Navy Hired It To Play Bad Guy: “We have been glued all week to the sub saga off the coast of Sweden, where six days in Swedish forces have only now called off their search for an elusive sub hiding in the waters off Stockholm. Yet what nobody has mentioned is just how deadly and capable Sweden’s own subs are, and there are few better weapons for catching a sub than another sub.”

(Via Jalopnik.)

I would totally have worked that into Arctic Rising if I’d known.

Something to come back to in the third novel, possibly.

09 Sep

So about that Amazon 99 cent phone…

According to Amazon’s press releases about how lower prices *always* mean more success for books, because they’re just widgets and the cheaper they are the more units they sell, and the more I, the author, profits, this means that Amazon just had THE BIGGEST SUCCESSFUL PHONE LAUNCH EVER!

Right?

“Amazon has given up on trying to get you to pay $199 for the Fire Phone with a contract. Now the retail giant has brought the price down — way down.

The Fire Phone, Amazon’s first and only mobile phone, will now be available for just 99 cents with a two-year contract, the company announced on Monday. Available exclusively through AT&T, the deal also comes with a one-year membership to Amazon Prime and unlimited cloud storage for photos.”

(Via Amazon Just Slashed The Price Of Its Phone To 99 Cents.)

I’m looking forward to paying hundreds for my next iPhone. Because I actually want that, and I will pay for it. Maybe Amazon has opinions on what Apple should minimally price it at?

Meanwhile, others will pay other various prices for Android and Windows phones.

And it’s all good. A variety of prices (including diamond bedazzled smartphones for crazy money) is how markets work.

09 Sep

How do economists change what they say based on money

HBR has this great article about the impact of money on economists and what they have to say about economics:

“To be an economist, you kind of have to believe that people respond to economic incentives. But when anyone suggests that an economist’s views might be shaped by the economic incentives he or she faces, that economist tends to get bent out of shape. This happened perhaps most famously in the documentary Inside Job, in which filmmaker Charles Ferguson posed his questions to the likes of Glenn Hubbard and Rick Mishkin as tendentiously as possible in order to spark just such reaction. But it’s actually pretty common to hear economists saying things like — this is from the usually no-nonsense John Cochrane of the University of Chicago — ‘the idea that any of us do what we do because we’re paid off by fancy Wall Street salaries or cushy sabbaticals at Hoover is just ridiculous.’

It is perhaps ridiculous to suggest that economists do what they do only because of the prospect of consulting gigs or think-tank stints. Economists are human beings, with diverse motivations. But it is definitely ridiculous to suggest that such rewards have no impact at all. Economists are human beings, and human beings respond to incentives. Right, economists?”

(Via Have Economists Been Captured by Business Interests? – Justin Fox – Harvard Business Review.)

This is fantastic.

08 Sep

Solar in Texas is hitting parity, an interesting inflection point

Link via Robert J. Bennet on twitter. Solar is hitting parity. Some people’s heads are going to explode

“But the Barilla project is unique in Texas because its developers – confident that their electricity can compete on the open market – have forged ahead without signing a power purchase agreement, which would guarantee a buyer for their energy. 

Texas, because of its size and intense radiation, leads the nation in solar energy potential. Much of that resource is in the state’s western half, according to the State Energy Conservation Office. The industry has long struggled to get a foothold in the state, as policymakers have provided fewer incentives than other states, and solar energy currently makes up a tiny fraction of Texas’ energy portfolio.

But improving technology has driven down the price of solar power, making it more competitive with other resources­ – even without incentives, developers say. “

(Via West Texas Solar Plant Comes Online | The Texas Tribune.)

13 Jul

Miami is slowly flooding, and will eventually be our newest Venice

I basically assume Miami is the newest Venice at the start of Hurricane Fever due to this:

“What makes Miami exceptionally vulnerable to climate change is its unique geology. The city – and its satellite towns and resorts – is built on a dome of porous limestone which is soaking up the rising seawater, slowly filling up the city’s foundations and then bubbling up through drains and pipes. Sewage is being forced upwards and fresh water polluted. Miami’s low topography only adds to these problems. There is little land out here that rises more than six feet above sea level. Many condos and apartment blocks open straight on the edge of the sea. Of the total of 4.2 million US citizens who live at an elevation of four feet or less, 2.4 million of them live in south Florida.”

(Via Miami, the great world city, is drowning while the powers that be look away | World news | The Observer.)