November 26th, 2015

I’ve been following the Republican presidential race with dismay, now crossing into horror, as I read what the candidates have to say about the current situation in the Middle East. SF author, Jim Wright, has been watching too, and he puts his reaction into words much better than I can. You need to read this.

And then yesterday, Trump doubled down.

He now claims he personally witnessed with his own eyes, from the windows of his own Manhattan apartment, more than 80 people jumping to their deaths from the Twin Towers before the collapse – despite the fact that his apartment in Trump Tower is more than four miles away and it would have been utterly impossible for him to have seen any such thing.

This is a pattern with Donald Trump.

He plays fast and loose with reality on a daily basis.

Now, either Trump believes what he’s saying or he’s exaggerating for effect knowing his supporters don’t really care either way because they have been conditioned to believe whatever the loud wild-haired guy under the tent is saying, no matter how ridiculous so long as he waves the bible and stands pat on his version of reality.

Either way, by accident or with malice aforethought, the bottom line here is that Donald Trump is not operating in a reality based framework.

And neither are those cheering him.

Inconsistenty in Word’s picture sizing

November 24th, 2015

I came across an annoying, and puzzling, inconsistency in the way that Word 2013 handles picture sizing.

Generally, in earlier versions of Word, when I wanted to resize a picture (usually a screen capture), I would right-click on it and select Format Picture from the context menu. That opened a dialog box where I could resize the picture, either by absolute value or by scaling by percentage, and maintain the aspect ratio. In other words, I could change the width and the height would change to match.

In Word 2013, if you right-click on a picture, it opens side-bar with various options, one of which is Crop. Changing size in that will NOT maintain the aspect ratio. Instead, you want to select Size and Position from the context menu. That brings up the original Layout dialog box which lets you keep the aspect ratio intact.

Just to make things even more confusing, when you select an image, a Picture Tools Format tab opens in the ribbon. That has fields for adjusting the image size and they do maintain aspect ratio (and I don’t see a way of turning that option off in the ribbon).

So – three different ways of doing the same thing, one of which doesn’t behave like the others. Or four, if you count using the sizing handles on the selected graphic, but for consistency I prefer to specify an exact size.

2015 Prix Aurora Awards

November 23rd, 2015

The 2015 Prix Aurura Awards for the best Canadian science fiction and fantasy of 2014 were awarded at SFContario 6 this weekend. Congratulations to all the winners. Here are the fiction awards:

  • Best English Novel:  A Play of Shadow by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books
  • Best English YA Novel: TIE:
    Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, Tor Books
    Out of This World by Charles de Lint, Razorbill Canada
  • Best English Short Fiction: “Crimson Sky” by Eric Choi, Analog, July/August
  • Best English Poem/Song: “A Hex, With Bees” by Tony Pi, Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen, EDGE
  • Best English Graphic Novel: It Never Rains by Kari Maaren, Webcomic

I am especially happy to see Karl Schroeder win in the YA category for his excellent novel,  Lockstep, which I thoroughly enjoyed and which envisions a plausible mechanism for interstellar exploration in a speed-of-light universe.

Ansel Adams’ photographs of Japanese internment camps

November 22nd, 2015

Ansel Adams, the great American landscape photographer, shot a series of photographs of Japanese internment camps during World War II. None of these were in the major exhibition of his work shown at the McMichael Gallery a couple of years ago.

The Atlantic has a gallery of 12 of the photos and there are 46 more on the Business Insider site.

Ansel Adams internment camp

Weather Forecast: Hot, Stormy, and Violent

November 19th, 2015

It looks like this year’s El Nino event is going to be a record-setter and that doesn’t bode well for much of the world.

We already knew the Godzilla Cthulhu Sauron El Niño of 2015 was gonna be bad. But exactly how bad are we talking? According to the World Meteorological Organization, this year’s El Niño is among the three strongest in the past 70 years, and it may become the worst one ever recorded.

One sign that the 2015 El Niño is approaching epic proportions appeared over the past week, when meteorologists noted record-high sea surface temperatures across a swath of the central Pacific known as the Niño 3.4 region. This region, which stretches between 90 degrees west and 160 degrees east longitude, 5 degrees north and 5 degrees south of the equator, saw a weekly average temperature of 3ºC (5ºF) above normal—higher than the 2.8ºC anomaly recorded in 1997.

And it’s not just bad weather that we have to worry about. There’s good evidence that climate change is already having a major effect on human population patterns, which is leading to mass migrations and conflicts over food and resources.

As the GAIN index illustrates, conflicts spreading across larger regions further lessens countries’ abilities to respond to the climate crisis–a vicious cycle of war and climate change. Look no further than Paris, where in a matter of weeks, world leaders will convene for arguably the most important meeting on climate change ever held as the city recovers from the horrifying attacks of Friday, November 13th.

The link between our warming planet and the wars spreading across it has never been more clear. Hopefully, the talks with catalyze a plan to break it–but it’s going to be a long road.

New free SF anthology inspired by Microsoft

November 18th, 2015

Microsoft has commissioned a new anthology of science fiction stories inspired by its technology. Future Visions contains stories by nine SF writers, Elizabeth Bear, Greg Bear, David Brin, , Nancy Kress, Ann Leckie, Jack McDevitt, Seanan McGuire, and Robert J. Sawyer, along with a short graphic novel by Blue Delliquanti and Michele Rosenthal, plus original illustrations by Joey Camach.

The Amazon blurb says:

Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft is an anthology of new short work from some of the greatest science fiction writers in the field. These visionary stories explore prediction science, quantum computing, real-time translation, machine learning, and much more. The authors used inside access to leading-edge work from Microsoft Research as inspiration, crafting pieces that predict the near-future of technology%mdash;and examine its complex relationship to our core humanity.

I haven’t read anything from it yet; it was just published today, but given the roster of authors I seriously doubt it will be a lemon.

Oh, and did I mention the price? No? It’s free.