Monday, October 29, 2012

Casinos vs. Casinos

Who's funding all the anti-casino ads in Maryland this election year? Casinos in West Virginia, reports Slate.

My latest Appalachian Independent article ...

... has been posted: "Veteran Congressman Helps Dedicate New Sustainable-Energy Lab." It includes my brief interview with U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., about his prospects in next week's election.

1962: It was a very good year

Although I don't see it on the World Fantasy Convention's current schedule, the organizers at one point considered a retrospective panel on the fantasy books of 1962 -- which had become classics, which await rediscovery, and so forth.

This inspired me, with the help of the invaluable Internet Speculative Fiction Database, to come up with this partial list of the fantasy books of 1962 (including science fiction as a subset of fantasy, of course). It was a very good year!

All hail to the five writers on the list (that I know of) still Among Those Present -- honored friends and colleagues, all.

  • Joan Aiken, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
  • Brian W. Aldiss, Hothouse
  • J.G. Ballard, Billennium
  • J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World
  • J.G. Ballard, The Voices of Time
  • J.G. Ballard, The Wind from Nowhere
  • Robert Bloch, Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper
  • Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones and Labyrinths (first English translations of these collections)
  • Ray Bradbury, R Is for Rocket
  • Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • John Brunner, No Future in It
  • Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, Fail-Safe
  • Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
  • Avram Davidson, Or All the Seas with Oysters
  • Samuel R. Delany, The Jewels of Aptor
  • August Derleth, ed., Dark Mind, Dark Heart
  • August Derleth, Lonesome Places
  • Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle
  • Harlan Ellison, Ellison Wonderland
  • Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
  • Russell Kirk, Old House of Fear
  • Russell Kirk, The Surly Sullen Bell
  • Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
  • John D. MacDonald, The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything
  • Katherine MacLean, The Diploids
  • Naomi Mitchison, Memoirs of a Spacewoman
  • H. Beam Piper, Little Fuzzy
  • Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, The Wonder Effect
  • Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth (first, posthumous publication, 50 years after Twain’s death)
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

Monday, May 28, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Servers' Birthday Chant

(With handclaps.)
We would sing 'Happy Birthday'
But it's still in copyright
And so we wrote this drivel
To foist on you tonight
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Sunday, March 04, 2012

The buzz on drone journalism

My student Shawn Pillai shares a link to a reblogged Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times editorial about airborne surveillance drones, coming soon to airspace near you:
Legislation just signed by President Obama directs the Federal Aviation Administration to open the skies to remotely controlled drones within the next three years. It will begin in 90 days with police and first responders ...
Shawn calls this "scary," and he's right. Keep in mind, however, that not only police agencies are planning to deploy drones. Case in point: the four-month-old Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Lab founder Matt Waite -- who declares, "Drones are an ideal platform for journalism" -- demonstrated one of his drones to an exhilarated (and jittery) crowd at the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference in St. Louis in February. Here's John Keefe's video of the takeoff and landing.

In Urbana, Ill., meanwhile, Matthew Schroyer has founded the Professional Society of Drone Journalists. Here's Schroyer's overview of the topic.

Maybe Frostburg State faculty in journalism, computer science and engineering should get together to talk about this.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


Today’s postal mail brought an unpleasant surprise, my first speed-camera ticket. According to Maryland State Police automata, I was going 68 mph in a 55 mph work zone at 9:42 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at I-70 and South Street in Frederick County, Md.
I was driving three students to the Baltimore airport to catch a plane to a conference. I guess being busted by a speed camera beats being pulled to the roadside by a police officer, with the attendant embarrassment and delay.
Instead, the shame has followed me to my house, where it’s aggravated by the fact that I was driving Sydney’s car at the time. No matter who is driving, the automata write tickets to the car’s owner, so the ticket arrived addressed to Sydney. Imagine her delight when she opened the envelope. Imagine her warm words.
Since May 2011, cameras at that location have written 3,414 citations, an average of 341 a month. Assuming $40 a pop, and assuming further that everyone cited actually paid, that’s $136,560 in total revenue, or $13,656 a month.
That’s peanuts compared to the lucre generated by the I-95 cameras in Baltimore County, between I-695 and I-895. They’ve generated 384,062 citations since November 2009, or $15.4 million. See for yourself.
According to Maryland SafeZones Facts, these cameras are mounted on white sport utility vehicles marked with the SafeZones logo, and by the time I passed them, I already had passed work-zone warning signs, plus an electronic sign displaying my speed.
So it’s a fair cop, as Monty Python used to say -- though I apparently could have sped past the cameras with impunity had I been going 1 mph slower.
I’m still disconcerted that my public movements are so much more easily tracked by the government than they used to be.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Read in 2011

Of the books I read in 2011, a few favorites, in publication order.

  • Jim Thompson, The Getaway (1959). Scary and increasingly surreal. Arguably a dark fantasy novel.
  • Stephen King (as Richard Bachman), The Long Walk (1979). Relentless. A lifetime ahead of The Hunger Games.
  • Ted Chiang, The Lifecycle of Software Objects (2010). As with all Chiang's best work, it's not only moving but keeps you thinking for months after you put down the book.
  • Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (1974).  A spellbinding police procedural, courtroom drama, and personality study. 
  • William R. Corliss, Science Frontiers: Some Anomalies and Curiosities of Nature (2 vols., 1994 and 2004). An annotated bibliography of thousands of eyebrow-raising articles in the scientific literature. Astonishment on every page.
  • Ed Cray, Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie (2004). Honest about the man's countless flaws, but awe-inspiring nonetheless.