Imagination Sinkhole

Babysitter

Babysitter, a short story by Cheeseburger Brown; illustration by the author

The invasion of Cassiopeia was age-inappropriate for the child: that much was clear.

All the worst words in the dictionary were being acted out live, and that violated the Standard with respect to age-appropriate subject matter. The child was present, which made the Standard paramount. On the other hand, duty was paramount.

The soldier was of the highest quality. No expense had been spared in his manufacture or maintenance. He was beautiful, too. He was as much a parade piece as a tool. Never the less, considering two things to be simultaneously paramount upset him.

The child bleated, “Where’s my mom?”

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My Thoughts Exactly

Ass over teakettle and a farewell to free ebooks

About three weeks ago I had freak accident on my bicycle. My chain froze as I was pedalling up a hill. I went ass over teakettle and performed a lovely three-point faceplant in the weeds (2 hands + 1 face = 3 ), spraining eight fingers & two thumbs and bloodying up my left cheek, which led to two visits to the emergency room and one to my doctor who told me that much of the symptoms in my hand were coming from my neck, where CT scans revealed “moderate to severe arthritis.”

As I picked myself up off the ground, in shock at the gross betrayal of me by my insubordinate bicycle and angry at gravity, and with my hands hurting ferociously and tingling in equal measure, and later, after calling my daughter, who was off in our family’s only working car, to ask her to come drive me to the hospital, I realized that I was not Cory Doctorow. Even after my daughter had picked up my wife who took me to the emergency room at Martha’s Vineyard hospital & I had heavenly dilaudid pumping into my vein I still was not Cory.

I’m mostly all better now. I even rode my bike a lot yesterday, despite the heat, right down to the Tisbury Street Fair, where I served strawberry shortcake with the guys in the Firefighters Association. It’s been three weeks since my bike mishap & I’m still not Cory. Consequently, I’ve stopped giving my books away for free.
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Inventing the Future

Because You Can

Ever since Shelly’s “Frankenstein”, the distinguishing characteristic of science fiction (as opposed to fantasy and other literature) has been the postulation that beings can change the circumstances of the world in which they live. We can alter the human condition, for better or worse. An idea of the last few decades has been that we can create an alternative reality for ourselves that is better than the one we inhabit in the flesh. For example, the movie “Avatar” has the characters access an improved natural world through a virtualized experience.

This terrific short blog applies this idea wonderfully to learning and collaboration. “The real power of a virtual immersive environment is the ability to transport the learner or collaborators into an environment that is ideally suited for the learning or collaborating that needs to take place and this usually requires an altering of the spaces.”

In principle, we can abstractly virtualize such an experience with 2D photographs, or even 1D text, but that doesn’t tend to cross the threshold of immersion that is necessary for deep learning and deep collaboration. As this commenter on the above puts it, “In most 2-D meeting tools, the data is the center of focus, not the human. Think about a Web meeting. The leader is simply showing participants slides. But the participants are not interacting with the information, nor one another.” Simply reading about nature or viewing it from a helicopter was not enough for the characters in Avatar, they had to “be” there and interact with it.

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My Thoughts Exactly

IRoSF gets Pained

A review of The Pains on the Internet Review of Science Fiction.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

A Sad Day for Brave Little Toasters Everywhere.

As reported by Cory Doctorow on on BoingBoing, author and poet Tom Disch committed suicide on July 4.

Disch achieved fame and notoriety for his fiction writing, particularly science fiction, and as a poet. You can find his Wikkipedia entry here. I gather from the various blog obits from friends and acquaintances that Disch was one of those enormously brilliant people who could be a real pain in the butt to deal with in person. I don’t know, I never met him.

For me, Disch’s name is synonymous with the character he created for his children’s book (and subsequent Disney movie adaptation), the The Brave Little Toaster. If I may make a secret confession, I totally love that story and that movie. Really. It is ridiculous and sappy (and I never particularly liked the sequels), but there was just something about this scrappy little toaster that defied all laws of logic and nature and found his master again against ridiculous odds. Maybe that’s why I went into public advocacy.

So I find it sad that the man who created the scrappy Little Toaster took his own life. A sad day for Brave Little Toasters everywhere.

Sic transit gloria mundae

Stay tuned . . . .

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My Thoughts Exactly

AofA Technology: Monster Cells

As many of y’all know, I wrote Acts of the Apostles, (a nanotech thriller about (among other things) Iraqi bioweapons programs)during the years 1995-99.

As the book was science fiction, it contains a lot of stuff that I just made up. Since then it’s been fun to collect instances where the real world has caught up with Acts.

Here’s a link to an article in the Washington Post that describes an effort by Craig Venter(!!) to create an artificial cell that’s in many ways similar to the “monster cell” of AofA.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Nanomeme Syndrome

In both the philosophical and visual sense, ‘seeing is believing’ does not apply to nanotechnology, for there is nothing even remotely visible to create proof of existence. On the atomic and molecular scale, data is recorded by sensing and probing in a very abstract manner, which requires complex and approximate interpretations. More than in any other science, visualization and creation of a narrative becomes necessary to describe what is sensed, not seen. Nevertheless, many of the images generated in science and popular culture are not related to data at all, but come from visualizations and animations frequently inspired or created directly from science fiction.

From “The Nanomeme Syndrome: Blurring of fact & fiction in the construction of a new science” in Volume 1, Issue 1, of Technoetic Arts, a journal of speculative research, by Jim Gimzewski and Victoria Vesna, some legitimate hardcore nanotechnologists. Gimzewski won the Forsight Insitute’s Feynman Prize in 1997 for leading the team that made that nifty IBM logo written in atoms.

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