30 Jun

First death of someone while using Tesla Autopilot

We learned yesterday evening that NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into the performance of Autopilot during a recent fatal crash that occurred in a Model S. This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated.

(Via A Tragic Loss | Tesla Motors.)

I mentioned to someone that I thought that this would be the moment that cracks open a lot of angst about autopilots, and could be the inflection moment that either slows down adoption or demonstrates that the polity at large accepts that people will also die in self driving cars with the same equanimity that they do regarding human-driven deaths.

In general, I find humans to be stunningly accepting of driver-controlled car death, my instinct is that it will not cause a setback there. But, there are a lot of people who have been hoping and waiting for just this moment to use against Tesla because they have hated the very idea of an electric, self-driving car.

We are learning that a lot of polarizing political identity is being shaped by tribalism. Even as coal as a technology is dying and going the way of whale oil, there are people right now throwing themselves into the gap for coal because they *identify* as a certain kind of political entity. Support for coal is being against green hippies. So they rig their trucks to blow more pollution (see ‘rolling coal’) and want to dig for coal even though it’s no longer cost effective.

There are similar forces who do not want to see Tesla succeed on general principle. They will be out in force.

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07 Jun

SpaceX plans first launch of a reused first stage rocket in a few months

This is the next big milestone, now that SpaceX is regularly re-landing first stage boosters, that SpaceX relaunch a booster and begin testing how that lifecycle works.

This article I’m linking talks about SpaceX talking to insurers about how the system is working so they can basically certify a used booster for launch in the new few months, and how much that will bring down their cost (to the $40 millions a launch range. Compared to $225 mil for their competition.

Pretty amazing stuff:

lists its starting price for the Falcon 9 rocket at $62 million. The average price of a launch with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. that competes with SpaceX for national security satellite launch contracts, is $225 million.

SpaceX executives say prices could go down even further — potentially by 30% — if the company is able to make good on its plans to offer reusable rockets for launch.

(Via SpaceX and Insurance Underwriters Will Discuss Risks of Reusing Rockets – Business Briefing on CIO Today.)

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04 Jun

Whole villages are abandoned/depopulated in rural Europe at the same time refugees are held at border…

I just said this in an interview off the cuff, but I thought I wanted to snag it and post it here:

Right now I’m reading stories about how whole villages are going up for sale for a few bucks in rural Europe because the countryside is being depopulated as generations move into the city and abandon the country. Meanwhile, at the border, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are being brutalized, starved, whole generations of minds deprived.

We are failing at connecting dots due to horrible narratives. We have to tell better stories.

Allow me to expand. From NPR, In Spain, Entire Villages Are Up For Sale — And They’re Going Cheap

Even villages in the country’s most fertile northwest region, Galicia, are being depopulated. The lush Galician landscape once supported Spain’s highest population density, and half of all Spanish villages — some 3,500 hamlets — are located there.

Now nearly half of these villages are abandoned.

Enter Mark Adkinson, a British-born real estate agent who scours the countryside for abandoned properties, and tries to match them up with foreign buyers.

Meanwhile people are dying while being held at borders.

We’re really fucking bad at being humane.

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12 Mar

Famous artists cause urban growth. Huh

we find a positive correlation between the contemporaneous number of entrepreneurs and the urban growth of the city in which they are located the following decades. More strikingly, the same is also true for artists, with the contemporaneous number or share of artists positively affecting city growth over the next decades.

(Via A brief history of human time | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal.)


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01 Sep

President wants more icebreakers in Arctic

One of the things I noticed while researching Arctic Rising was that the US was not able to do much force-projection or borders patrolling, search and rescue, etc with the current fleet, ranking the US below much, much smaller nations with Arctic borders. Looks like someone is paying attention finally:

President Obama on Tuesday will propose speeding the acquisition and building of new Coast Guard icebreakers that can operate year-round in the nation’s polar regions, part of an effort to close the gap between the United States and other nations, especially Russia, in a global competition to gain a foothold in the rapidly changing Arctic.

(Via Obama to Call for More Icebreakers in Arctic as U.S. Seeks Foothold – The New York Times.)

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28 Aug

Digging on artist Mike Winkelmann’s futuristic illustrations here

What I love about this is the John Berkey sense of scale in these. Berkey’s massive starships almost always guaranteed a purchase from me when I was browsing the used book store.


Artist Mike Winkelmann has been making an illustration every day for eight years. As his website will tell you, he hasn’t broken routine for 3,039 days—and over that time his illustrations and process have drastically evolved. In his most recent digital illustrations, he imagines dreamlike futuristic landscapes.

A lot of artists and great thinkers throughout history have had rigorous daily routines that keep them productive and creative, all the while honing their specific set of skills. One of the impressive things about Winkelmann’s practice, besides sheer longevity, is that he switches the tools that he uses to create the images each year.

(Via 3 | This Illustrator Has Created A Picture A Day For The Last Eight Years | Co.Design | business + design.)

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24 Aug

Queen’s Young Leaders looking for more Caribbean applications for people working with youth or amazing young leaders

This came through my inbox, I thought I’d pass it along duly. If you are in the Caribbean and doing anything with the youth, you might want to nominate youths doing spectacular things or nominate someone doing something for the young folk:

I am writing on behalf of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Comic Relief and The Royal Commonwealth Society, with a request for you to support the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards.

Following the success of the 2015 Queen’s Young Leaders Awards, the search is now back on to find the 2016 Award winners. Here’s a short film showing the highlights from the ceremony https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1I5BaJ52rk. These awards will discover and celebrate inspirational young people from across the Commonwealth who are making a difference in their communities.

We are planning a burst of social media activity over the days before the application deadline, from now until the 7th September. We are asking influential artists from the Commonwealth nations to help us highlight this very special opportunity for young people in their own country, and encourage a final flurry of applications. We’d love to have some more applications from Grenada!

If you would like more information about the programme or how you can help us, please do not hesitate to contact me.

You can see more at Queen’s Young Leaders.

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23 Aug

Congratulations Hugo Award Winners. Meanwhile, Sad Puppies smacked on nose with newspaper

I tuned in via UStream to watch the Hugo Awards as I was too busy with deadlines for it to be feasible this year as a trip.

Fandom rejected sad puppies very strongly in favor of no award for any of the areas dominated by slate voting. They’re already spinning defeat as a win, which is funny as they tried so fucking hard to win. Sour grapes.

Interestingly, the one sole category that sad puppies posted a decent piece of art was in movies. Guardians of the Galaxy as a result won. So when they say everyone was part of a social justice conspiracy to vote one way, you know it’s bullshit. Fans were happy to ignore the sad puppy support of GotG and voted for it.

Everything else: fandom basically said ‘don’t piss in a punch bowl and blab about how awesome it is and then tell us it’s a conspiracy against good punch.’

Here are the winners.

Meanwhile, I’m curious to see what the stats are so I can see what great literature was bumped off the final ballots for further reading.

Also, two translated works won. I’m sure chroniclers will update us, but that seems like a big first and it puts the world in Worldcon.

Update: viewing by this pic of one of the voting stats by Charles Stross it is a huge preference for No Award on novella:

Annalee Flower has been twittering posts of the nomination lists, so we can see the lists of writers who were kept off the ballot by puppies slate voting:

Basically we learned the puppies forced a lot of amazing women and people of diverse backgrounds off the ballot.

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12 Aug

Yes, Virginia, people of color do fucking read SF/F

Here’s an article in SF Signal about the lack of SF/F books with people of color on the cover. And here’s a fairly typical SF/F fan response in the comments that I want to highlight by a commenter called TheAderian that wraps up all the ignorances I’ve had tossed my way in one big bundle. Here are a couple of quick snips I want to respond to (I can’t respond to all of them, I just can’t):

Firstly, I work in a largely black city in the human services field and have done so for a very long amount of time. It’s my job to get to know people and know them well and so I understand the interests of huge amounts of people. It’s not scientific, but I have a pretty good example of the interests of at least one group of “people who have color”


There are no African nations interested in space flight, exploring space, etc. I have never met an urban black person who talks about science fiction concepts wonders what’s on some planet, some star, etc or laments the loss of the space program, they would rather that money spent in their community. I have met black people who grew up in white areas who dream about these things though, thus proving to me that it’s all cultural.

I see it’s that time of year for the ‘poc don’t read SF/F’ statements from the willfully ignorant.

So, no. Just no.

Meanwhile, here is a post where I walk through an entire con devoted to things SF/F in Barbados, where a large percent of the population shows up: http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2011/07/04/whats-a-barbados-sci-fi-con-like-animekon-expo-snapshots/

And here’s a list of online SF/F fans of color standing up to be counted:


Hey, even rappers/musicians are into SF/F: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/backstage-rider/pharrell-williams-concert-rider-159073 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwnefUaKCbc and many more, I literally just grabbed two links off the top of my head, this shit is all over the place.

So yes, Virginia, POC *do* read SF/F, and it’s common. To remain ignorant takes serious work.

Insisting we don’t exist is a tactic in making us invisible, and a huge part of the problem. Please stop this ignorance.

There is much more ignorance in this comment as well. “There are no African nations interested in space flight, exploring space, etc.” Seriously, 30 seconds with Google easily disproves this.

Fucking ignorant.

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