YTD – April 2018

There is a lot to be said for taking a long view in your life. This certainly seems to be getting easier as I get older here on the threshold of my 32nd birthday, about a month from now.

Some things/projects I’d like to find time to work on more this year are:

  • Essays here on this site.
  • A django website project built on an existing (large) database
  • work on some fiction projects.
  • Upgrades to our chicken coop, notably a roofed-over run and automatic door
  • Beer brewing this summer
  • Notes on a podcast project I’ve been thinking about in fits and starts for a few years.
  • Hiking and paddling.

I hope I am getting better about forgiving myself about slow progress and trying to make steady, consistent progress.

Given that I’ve got my computer here at home set up well to work on points 1 and 2 above, I finished out today getting ssh access set up remotely with a DDNS and port-forwarding so I can log into the machine from anywhere.

I’m finishing this post sitting in the little cafe attached to Nori’s Villiage Market, our organic food co-op equivalent here in town. (mostly since our main coffee shop is closed for the week.)

Recently I’ve reread the first two books in Graydon Saunder’s Commonweal series and the third bok for the first time. I’ve really enjoyed those books and should write some reviews of them. Just started the second Terra Ingonita book by Ada Palmer, which I enjoy for its richness but which I ultimately feel sort of ambivalent about in ways I haven’t taken the time to articulate.

Looks like my Mom is getting a cabin for a week down in the southern adirondacks that I should have time to spend at. I enjoyed being on an un-networked vacation with time to read and write. Ought to work that sort of time into my life more often, not just on an expensive vacation. There’s some fiction projects I want to work on and get out of my head. I still daydream about being able to write enough to fund a writing workshop like Clarion or Variable Paradise. I did the math some time ago about how many words at what rates I’d need to publish to finance such a trip. My job allows enough time off that that wouldn’t be a problem, so I’m in a wonderful position to take advantage of that. Now, I just have to put in the time and the work, which is always easier to talk about than to do.

Time to go read a book, publish this post and head off to an appointment, haircut and errands before I go to work this afternoon for the evening.

Rocketry Bibliography

In researching this post from a few years ago that served as a brief overview of the Redstone Family of launch vehicles, I came across a number of other resources that I filed away since they didn’t have a particular bearing on that specific early launch vehicle but which might serve as fodder for other posts under the same heading. Since I’ve also been interested in the combination of rockets and nuclear weapons I’m including a number of high-level resources on nuclear weapons as well.

First drafted: January 7th, 2018.

Last updated: January 14th, 2018.

U.S. Launch Vehicles & Space Programs:

  • Launius, Roger D. To Reach the High Frontier: A History of U.S. Launch Vehicles. The University Press of Kentucky, 2015. Internet resource.

Rocketry & Spaceflight, Generally:

  • Redfield, Peter. Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Remote Sensing:

Soviet & Russian Launch Vehicles & Space Programs:

Cold War & General Nuclear history

  • Bird, Kai, and Martin J. Sherwin. American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.London: Atlantic, 2009. Print.
  • Jacobsen, Annie. Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America.New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015. Print.
  • Jacobsen, Annie. The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of Darpa, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016. Print.
  • Rhodes, Richard The Making of the Atomic Bomb
  • Rhodes, Richard Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb


The start of a new year is always a good time to try and cultivate new and/or better habits.

Having finally switched computers, hosting platforms, houses, marital status (unmarried & co-habitating in a nice apartment to married in our own house) I’ve kicked the tires here and gotten a publishing workflow set up again.

The last time I was writing here in the opening weeks of 2015, I was still in my 20s and full of misplaced ambition that I would write here once a week. I did pretty well in January I have to say, but like many a New Year’s resolution, it fell off and wasn’t sustainable.

In 2018, I’m going to write here when I can, as I’d like to and on topics that happen at that moment of be of interest but are unlikely to stray very far from history, science fiction, home cooking and perhaps rockets.

I’m working on this draft again, started on the 2nd and continuing here on a quiet Sunday morning. Chessie and I drove down to Albany and did a bunch of errands, returned some things, exchanged some others. I got some new kitchen tools, a new phone case.

I’ve been committed to budgeting more carefully this year. Not just this week or this month but for the long term.

  • Financial Goals 2018:
    • Build up a month’s expenses in our main checking account: stop living paycheck to paycheck.
    • Add at least 15% to out savings.
    • Pay off at least half the outstanding balances on our credit cards & debts.

If we can manage all of those things, or really just keep our eye on the ball more I think a little constant attention will yeild a better, more stable and less stressful tinge to our finances.

In other areas I’d like to continue to work toward getting our home settled, making it a peaceful, relaxing space for both of us and our friends. With the help of my Mom and step-dad we painted two rooms in the house: the living room and dining room and we bought some new furniture from IKEA toward the end of 2017. Those things all put together will mean that two more rooms in the house will be a lot closer to feeling finished. We’ve got a fair amount of paint leftover, so I think some door trim and a hallway or two will be getting painted in 2018, along with the trim on the exterior of the house.

I’ve spent most of the time I might have writing this post getting Jekyll up and running, but I think I’ve nearly got it working 100% on my main office desktop computer, and hope to also get something working well enough on my little amazon tablet. (Though I ought to just set up a VPN into this machine here at home since I always leave it on, instead of running an entire different mobile environment for writing & website deployment.)

Gibson’s Jackpot, in Summer

Just finished Reading The Peripheral and it is always good to read a novel that feels wholly complete at its conclusion. Gibson has a mastery of the form that I cannot currently express, as I don’t have much space in my head of late for critical thinking. I do have that sense of the book’s completeness. There’s a sense at its conclusion of the benevolent omnipotent kindness of the most constructive players of simulation games from The Sims to Dwarf Fortress and Rim World, intertwined with those fantasies of what one would do if suddenly super-empowered by winning a lottery jackpot.

The lottery, winning a jackpot, runs through the book, with The Jackpot as a slow motion ruination of the whole world, as happens of course on a personal level to most of those who do win lottery jackpots. The first intervention by Coldiron from the future on behalf of Flynne and her brother is that their cousin win a lottery jackpot and the book loops around to the family having been positioned such that they can work to nudge the world away from the past of the future where “the Jackpot” of plague, climate change’s impacts and other things work the slow motion apocalypse of descent rendered in the continuum of Neverton, Lev and Lowbeer.

It is perhaps the inward-looking avoidance of evil and work toward the common good that represents the best part of goodness, the most solidly ethical path.

Lowbeer says that it is the fact of flynne’s ongoing unwillingness to deploy a thing as terrible as party-time that is important going forward. This is Lowbeer looking ahead to consider the most positive outcome and move onward from that. She invites Flynn to spend time considering what to do at the party when she does succeed in identifying the man on the balcony not its negative alternative. Lowbeer goes further in considering Flynne’s future, her ethics, that it’s important she continue to be incapable of using the chemical weapon because Lowbeer is being an optimist and looking forward to Flynne’s role in the new order that will come with their success in the current crisis and Flynne’s role in the long term work of avoiding the jackpot for her continuum.

There’s a balance in the novel of ethics and privileged where the latter emerges most clearly in those with less of the latter. There is the stub, which serves as a rich person’s game & unique gift from one person of the klept to another at its outset but grows into interpersonal partnership across time and difference to render Flynne’s continuum a radically better place and put the levers of change in their world into hands which least expected to ever wield them and which least sought them out. The old saying about those best qualified for positions of power are those which least seek for them.

There are perhaps a great many things to be said about Flynne’s relationship at the book’s close with Tommy, the Lawful Good uncorrupted Sheriff, hat conspicuously in hand in the presence of ladies, a throwback, an aspiration toward black and white morals in a deeply grey world. Their child signaling the continuing of the work for the world in the not-compound of their homes on the family land, the ongoing refusal to become uprooted from the place which shaped them into the people who chanced into control of their world.

Particularly nice to read a book and finish it on vacation and in a place mentally and physically where I can sit and think quietly about the book. I like to have the time to sit and write, to get my thoughts into some kind of order. I should start journaling again. I’m writing this on that little kindle tablet. Working on a good way to sync all the files here with my home and work computers, for exactly this sort of travel and writing.

There are a few quotes toward the end of the book that struck me in particular.

One of the things which is striking about the form of novels is their unmatched ability to render a world and to allow a full world to be rendered by the work of a single person, a single mind. Its the scale of this creation that sometimes floors me and which drives me however much I am driven to eventually write one, as a pinnacle of creative endeavors I aspire toward. The render too of wholly convincing people who are not just shades of yourself is also an unmatched feature of novelists’ powers along with a readers’ ability to flesh out, to shade in detail the notes which are sketched by the words the writer gives as well as the spaces those words leave empty.

It makes me want to read more, thinking more, write more, both about the things which I read and to try myself at making whole those pieces of story and character and ultimately a sort of life which fiction can allow one to bring into being thanks to language and imagination.

It’s always struck me that the best novels are unadaptable as they use most fully those features which cannot exist as well in other media. The inner lives and voices of people cannot be in film as well as they can be when passed as inner dialogue from writer to character to reader without it having shifted format save through the interface of language which is always the media of thought. In this way it seems that written fiction read silently is in this way the best media for transmission of minds, of thoughts, of people’s most true selves perhaps, that renders it, for me, the most sustainingly powerful of the Arts.

I’ll end this here for now and get up and enjoy some more of this sunny, relaxing day and go out to experience some of it, perhaps later as fodder for making some life out of words I’ve read and things which I have seen on days like this and the worse ones, the days against which betters onces like this are the bulwark of peace in life.