Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Poetry Coach Online

I've recently begun offering a new coaching service for writers and poets.

You can have a look at my website to see how it works and what services are offered. I hope to add a series of online poetry courses in the next few weeks as well.

And now I'll let this particular blog go back to its normal work of discussing science factoids and science fiction.....

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Kinetic Wind-Powered Robot

I saw a little clip on the news recently about some wind-powered kinetic robots put together by a Dutch designer. I came across some more designed by Dutch artist Theo Jansen when browsing this blog. Really beautiful work! The video clips I saw on the news were amazing.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

The Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster

I recently finished reading Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster. It's a pretty funny collection, with lots of spoofs, warped humor, and all the things that can make reading poetry fun.

It's the first collaboration between Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty I've read, but I really enjoyed it, and would happily delve into anything else they put together.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Seeing Double?

If you think a robot girlfriend is weird, what about someone who puts the real object of his affections into robot form — himself! The robot doppleganger is now available for retail in Japan.

What would you do if you had a robot who looked just like you? Do you think you'd try to be in two places at once? Would it be better or worse than a clone?

I can't imagine how I'd manage my day if I had a doppleganger. I have enough trouble keeping track of everything now.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?

I knew the day would eventually come, but it's still kind of funny to see it arrive. RoXXXy is now on the scene, offering a very specific service for lonely men. Yes, you guessed it — she's a sex machine. Literally.

Roxxxy was recently unveiled, um... I mean, introduced at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. She's 1.52 cm, and weighs 54 kg. And more importantly, has a full C-cup. She is programmed with artificial intelligence, and covered with flesh-like synthetic skin. And participants at the expo in Las Vegas were completely enamored.

Roxxxy is just one of the names of the robot, which is more accurately branded TrueCompanion. She comes equipped with 5 different personalities. Douglas Hines is her inventor.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010


A friend loaned me Urusula Le Guin's Voices recently. I picked it up over the weekend and finished it in just a couple of days. As soon as I'd read the first chapter, I knew I was going to read it straight through in a relatively short time, and that feeling of being firmly in the grip of a good story didn't let up. It's been a while since I last read a Le Guin novel (at least 3-4 years), and I'd almost forgotten how good she can be.

Voices is a book about healing, and about being broken. It is both profound and moving. If ever there has been a tale to make me believe the pen is mightier than the sword, this is it. Never have I seen diplomacy presented in such active terms, making the tale seem action-packed, even though there is surprisingly little fighting in it. The violence we see is not romanticized into some heroic act, but presented in the stark realities of the suffering inflicted by violent acts — suffering that can damage generation after generation, if allowed.

Here are a couple of things to whet the appetite, quoting from the book:

"I'm sorry, now, for that girl of fifteen who wasn't as brave as the child of six, although she longed as much as ever for courage, strength, power against what she feared. Fear breeds silence, and then the silence breeds fear, and I let it rule me. Even there, in that room, the only place in the world where I knew who I was, I wouldn't let myself guess who I might become." (page 32)

"I get along with animals and they get along with me. The gift is called calling, but it's more like hearing, actually." (page 73)

"'Heathen,' they called us. A word we learned from them. If it meant anything, it meant people who don't know what's sacred. Are there any such people? 'Heathen' is merely a word for somebody who knows a different sacredness than you know." (page 126)

"We've sung your poem 'Liberty' for ten years now here in Ansul, in hiding, behind doors. How did that song get here, who brought it? From voice to voice, from soul to soul, from land to land. When we sing it aloud at last, in the face of the enemy, do you think you'll be silent?" (page 169)

"Love of country, or honor, or freedom, then, may be names that give that pleasure to justify it to the gods and to the people who suffer and kill and die in the game. So those words — love, honor, freedom — are degraded from their true sense. The people may come to hold them in contempt as meaningless, and poets must struggle to give them back their truth." (page 296)

There's plenty more like that — moving passages couched in the middle of a good story. I'll just quote these few parts, though, and hopefully that will be enough to let the book jump out and begin to work its magic on you too.

After all, what could I say about the book that would better recommend it than that it overflows with lines like these?

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

House of Many Ways

I managed to pick up a copy of the Diana Wynne Jones novel, House of Many Ways when I was in Shanghai recently. I had been keeping an eye out for the book, but certainly hadn't expected to find it in Shanghai. Anyway, I am happy I did spot it there, and really enjoyed reading it. Not surprising, as Diana Wynne Jones is always one of my favorites.

The book features Howl and Sophie, but they are not the main characters. Instead, Charmain and the little dog who adopts her, Waif, are the main stars of the show. It is a nice way to continue to feature Howl and Sophie, the pair in Howl's Moving Castle, as they make a very fun couple to follow. And Calcifer is, of course, as charming as ever.

It is always hard to beat a Diana Wynne Jones fantasy tale. She knows how to weave stories in such a way as to make the reader want to know what is going to happen next. She is incredibly creative, making use of all sorts of strange and funny magic to get the tale moving along. Her use of space and time is, as always, entertaining in House of Many Ways.

Charmain is like most of the characters you expect to find in a Diana Wynne Jones book — whether it be a part of the Chrestomanci series, the Dalemark series, the Spellcoats series, the Howl books, or any of the many stand-alone volumes she's written. Charmain, like the rest, is simultaneously lovable and infuriating. Her faults aren't hidden from us, but are rather made an object for amusement and bemusement all at the same time. You wonder, while reading, how someone could continue to be so bad-tempered... and yet, you can't help but smile, perhaps recognizing it as a very typical, very human mode of behavior. (Maybe even something you might have seen in yourself from time to time.)

For me, it is this combination of innovative magic, good humor, lovable/infuriating characters, and good plots that makes every Diana Wynne Jones story so much fun. And House of Many Ways doesn't disappoint.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

If Star Wars had Facebook...

I came across a really funny post here.

Hope you get a laugh out of it.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fun Viewing

It was fun yesterday, on the second day of the new year, to see the 1984 film 2010 showing on TV. I enjoyed watching it again, just like I did 26 years ago. (Wait... 26 years??? Ouch!)

And right after watching 2010, the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey was aired. It's been some time since I last saw that old classic as well, and so I really enjoyed catching up with both films yesterday.

The old movies are obviously a little dated when you look at some of the technologies pictured in them, but it doesn't matter much. They are still good movies. The ideas in the series, both about space exploration and the interaction between humans and the technology they create, are really fun to consider. The Bowman-HAL connection is a little creepy still — in fact, it might be even more so today, when such things seem to really capture the imagination of serious women and men of science.

I'm glad both films were shown — especially together — and getting to see them right in the middle of the era they depicted and predicted. It's interesting to think about the different directions our technology and space exploration has taken us since the making of the movies (and the writing of the books on which they are based), and also the ways in which the stories still hold certain ideas that are, even today, worth exploring further.

I read 3001 several months ago, and also read a book entitled Flesh and Machines, which makes mention of HAL and his (its?) interaction with humanity. Seeing these films again after having recently enjoyed both of those books was extra fun. I'm glad I caught them on TV and got to experience them all over again.

3001 The Final Odyssey

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