Exciting new images of Pluto from the New Horizons platform now so far from Earth have me thinking about the state of space exploration.
While the number of nations capable of boosting men and equipment into orbit and beyond remains small, there is no shortage of nations, corporations, and even individuals invested in the next stage of space exploration.
Hubble, Chandra, Kepler, and other imaging platforms in space and on the ground continue to reveal the marvels of our universe. With the arrival of New Horizons to Pluto we have now sent probes to every historically major body in our solar system. Missions like the Dawn probe to Ceres and the Deep Impact meet up with Tempel 1 have only expanded on what we know and can do.
Then there’s the wonder of having watched Voyager 1 pass beyond the heliosphere of our sun into galactic space.
Even more exciting is the new level of talk around manned missions. To Mars. Back to the moon. Even to near Earth asteroids.
I wrote a previous post over the question of how much all this costs: Billions To NASA When So Many People Are Starving? You can see how I feel about that question by following the link.
One thing I do know is how much of this need to reach out and explore is inherent in being human. For the most part, the easy stuff of mapping the surface of our own world has been done. That leaves us with the oceans about which we still know so little, and space, where we have only just begun to reach out a tentative hand.
Krista Ball wrote a fascinating reflection of her journey from fear to confidence as a writer. I first heard of her when she asked a pregnancy question about one of the characters in Blaze back in the beginning if her career. She has since gone on to write a bookshelf worth of works you should go and read. I am still wavering over releasing the same book I was working on when she asked her question. I do have a second book drafted and copious notes for a third book, but still I remain unpublished..
I can give you any number of reasons why this has happened, but when I boil it all down to its essence, the problem is a lack of confidence. Have I done my best in crafting this story? Will any one want to read it? Will I become a pariah for doing it wrong? Not keeping pure to the Science Fiction genre I write in? I’ve already been warned about including too many elements of my Christian faith in my stories.
It could even be argued that taking the time to compose this post is keeping me from finishing edits on the last few pages of my latest draft. The fact we are in the middle of selling our present home and buying a new one better suited to our future needs is only incidental to the bigger picture.
Maintaining this blog doesn’t really help. Though I freely admit to making little effort to market my presence, the general lack of traffic is not what I’d call confidence inspiring to someone aspiring to a craft where discoverability is probably the single biggest obstacle we all face.
This is the year this will change. I have already pushed myself forward through moments that would have stopped me in the past. A few more steps, each capable of shutting me down as Krista described in her development as a writer, and I’ll have my first work out there and be deep into getting number two ready to follow.
One final thought. The average reader can finish a story faster than most writers can produce them. Writing isn’t a competition so much as a collaboration. Just take a look at how many different authors you have on your own bookshelf. If you find yourself in the same place I’ve been and still feel you have a story you want to tell, it’s not to late. Take a close look at what’s holding you back, set your priorities, and act upon them.
Warning. This post contains references to math.
It’s a question all of us have heard in one form or another. Most of us have heard many variations of it over the years. The other day I heard it once again, sparking a little number checking and this post.
A quick check of official NASA budget numbers reveals they received over 17.7 billion last year. Keep that number in mind.
It is estimated there are over 164 million smart phone in use in the USA today.
Now to some guestimates.
Let us assume that number is overstated by 25%. That leaves 123m SPs.
Let us further assume another 25% are dedicated strictly for business. That leaves 92.25m SPs. Most of which are used primarily for entertainment.
Let us further assume 25% of those only connect to the internet via available WiFi hotspots. That leaves 69.2m SPs.
If the average monthly cost of a data plan is $50 a month or $600 a year, these users are collectively spending $41.5 billion annually.
If only 1/2 of those users acted on the question, Why am I spending so much money on instant gratification when there are people going hungry, it would produce a bigger impact than the total diversion of NASA funds to food programs.
As an aside, let me point out that it is easier for the individual to send money to a trusted charity that for that same individual to sway how a government spends the money they have skimmed off their paycheque.
In addition, of that 17.7b allocated to NASA, only a small fraction is actually shot into space. Most of it stays right here on Earth to cover the salaries of the many fine people employed either directly or within the supply chain NASA sources its material from. Those are real jobs helping to feed real families at a level that makes it possible for them to donate from their excess to the poor and hungry.
All that’s before accounting for the long list of scientific advancements and inventions that have gone on to help society at large.
I would call that something to think about before complaining that some program represents money being wasted.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I make a point of talking up Vancouver’s premier Science Fiction, Fantasy and Games Convention VCON. It’s an event I’ve made a special point of attending for a number of years now. Not just me, but the entire family as my wife runs her Cat’s Knitting table in the Vender Hall each year with the help of our daughter.
There are many different kinds of Cons out there. Some aimed at Fans, others at Creators, and many that do their best to bridge the two in some dynamic way. To me the one thing that separates a Con from a Show is the level of interaction invited between the showees and the attendees. I’m fine with people who have a different definition.
One of my goals as a writer is to earn enough money from my craft to fund my attendance to Cons outside the local area. Another milestone would be to become big enough to attract invites to sit as a panelist at such Cons.
Only thing is, Cons can have so much going on it’s hard to find time to take a breather. All that interaction can wear a person down. I know people who thrive is such situations, who go home raring to go, their batteries charged. That’s not me. I need a vacation to recover from my ‘vacation’.
True, I’ve met a lot of fine people at past VCONs. Just as true are all the times I failed to say hello to people I wanted to meet because I couldn’t get past the inner voices telling me the time and place weren’t right. That last bit can leave me exhausted to the point of wondering if the whole thing is worth it and asking myself what else can I hope to achieve by attending the next con?
The answer as of this moment is: I don’t know. What I do know is I will be attending VCON 40 on the Dead Dog Membership purchased at the end of VCON 39. Perhaps I’ll see you there and get past those voices in my head long enough to say hello.
This post by Cyrus Keith has got me thinking. A common meme in the world of writers and other creative types is that of the starving artist spending long periods of time in their favourite coffee shop or bar. Almost by definition, creative acts are solidary endeavours where isolation is a fact of life, and yet here we have a theme that requires these same isolationists to interact with other people on some level.
Having said that, I will be the first to admit crowds make for a great place to be alone. They can also be a painfully lonely place to be if no one notices or cares about you.
But back to the coffee shop meme. As a regular you will develop connections with other patrons. Even hidden in the corner behind the screen of your laptop someone is bound to draw you out with a familiar hello. At other times you must either interact with a waiter or join the lineup to refill your beverage of choice. All little things that force us out of our shells to engage in some level of interpersonnal interaction. None of which would be necessary if we stayed in creative caves to do our work.
Even those who take regular get-away-from-it-all retreats return to places where they must interact with other people on a semi-regular basis.
For that matter, I don’t know of any creative types who don’t eventually want some level of exposure for their creations, and, even if by proxy, themselves. While I’m sure there are exceptions, the very existance of the meme I’m working from suggests that they are just that, the exceptions.
We may or may not be social butterflies, but social is part of all of us on some level.
We lost power at home for a few hours due to gale force winds yesterday. This happens three to four times a year where we live, with an average dark time of four to six hours. Last night torrential rain pounded off the metal roof above our bedroom, though not to the room shaking degree that sometimes snaps us awake.
Fall has arrived with a vengeance.
Also, I should have gotten off my butt when I had the chance to refresh the water repellant on my jacket.
Some people will read this as belly-aching. It isn’t, I love this time of year. In truth I love all four seasons. Wind, rain, snow, thunder, lightning, even the sun of Summer until it gets too hot to think.
Think of it as being one of the perks of being planet born on a top of the class habitable world. (Did you really think I wouldn’t squeeze in a link to my life as a science fiction writer somewhere?)
I encourage everyone who reads this to look out the window and think about the beauty that is all around us, in all seasons.