This is the most exciting scientific article I’ve seen in some time. Actually, since the one a while back about the magical seeming machine similar to the Star Trek food synthesizer. This one has a Trek connection too. They’re likening it to the impulse drive. How awesome is that?

As a writer I’m always pondering the best way with what we know now to get humanity from Point A Right Here to Point Way Far B. Some ways would turn us into walking mummies (read all but dead or right on up to good and darned dead), others would involve an insomniac’s dream of a very, very long, long…er, long, sleep, while others involve a self-sustaining generational colony ship that would be like taking your entire town on a Sunday drive…practically forever. All intriguing, none exactly ideal.

Enter the electromagnetic propulsion drive. Invented a decade and a half ago, it was deemed impossible. Now, all of a sudden, ta da! It works. It can get to the moon in four hours! Take a moment to let that sink in. Rocket off to The Luna Cafe for lunch anyone?

Given our current predicament of being all dressed up, with every where to go, but only the slow boat to China equivalent of propulsion as a prospect for trying to get anywhere beyond the International Space Station, this is like a Model T driver being suddenly handed the keys to a Maserati. A working EM drive would open up space travel as we never quite dared hope for.

This prospect is exciting for all of us, scientists, dreamers, humanity in general. And science fiction writers. Imagine where an EM drive, combined with creative imagination, could take us. To the moon. To Mars. To the stars.

One of the first things I thought of is how important it could be for the salvation of humanity. Not that we as a whole need saving right now. That I know of. But we’re always trying to figure out how to survive an extinction level catastrophic event, like a direct asteroid hit. I’d sure rather take off in a well prepared escape fleet than hole up in a cave system in Arkansas! By lottery. (Why, yes, I do love Deep Impact!)

The thing most thrilling about the very idea to me is that for most of us it’s coming out of left field. An expressway to the stars, of sorts. An idea I’d never heard of or imagined, until I saw this article a little while ago. I can practically feel my brain expanding, as possibilities that seemed impossible yesterday set off a veritable fireworks factory of ideas and imaginings.

And, yes, plots.

Writing is going to get a lot more exciting. And just think of the new ways movies will play out. What a great time to be a writer. A screenwriter. A thinker. A citizen of Earth.

I’ve found the current season of Hannibal strong and compelling and unsettling and frustrating. As a great admirer of Thomas Harris and his creations, I’ve found it tempting and difficult throughout the series to reconcile Harris’ vision with Bryan Fuller’s, though I know it’s best not to try.

The past couple of episodes in particular seemed to focus on shock value…violence for violence’s sake. The incongruous beauty of slow motion blood drips and Hannibal’s meal preparations all but replaced with Mason Verger’s visceral thirst for revenge and his sister and therapist’s subtly blatant affair didn’t sit well for me. Something I love about Thomas Harris’ writing is his fine touch with sophisticated violence. The TV series has always been sophisticated in a different way, with its violence both surreal and artistic. I feared all of that was being lost.

Then tonight the series fast forwarded itself three years. Events shifted drastically and it was as if the entire construct righted itself and came back into sharp focus. The Red Dragon was born.

And The Tooth Fairy, with his bloody murders and obsession with reflection, appeared. Finally we get to the book the series is based upon and so far I am not disappointed. Richard Armitage is emerging as a formidable opponent for Will, the FBI, and Hannibal’s great mind.

As an aside I now feel I know more about tattooing that I ever have before. Suffice it to say that after seeing the process so close up, it’s pretty amazing that the end result is often very beautiful.

While the past couple of weeks of Hannibal left me wondering what happened to this series I admire so much and diving deep into think-of-it-as-alternate-reality-Doctor-Lecter mode, the hour I just watched left me wanting more. I read somewhere that Bryan Fuller has said this season is the story he really wanted to tell. Going by the latest episode, I’ve decided it’s also a story I really want to see play out. I’m so sorry Hannibal has been cancelled, and I’m equally grateful the network is airing the final episodes. I hope it goes out with the same fascinating blend of beauty and horror it thrilled us with from the start.

The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Competition sprang the Quarter Finalists announcement early this year. I think that’s a good thing. Find out, celebrate and wait again, or deal with not advancing and move on.

Though my screenplays didn’t make Quarter Finalist, I did a bit better than last year. Both in results and attitude. Last year each of my three scripts got one positive read, which crushed me after they’d all done well in other competitions. This year I did some attitude adjusting.

I decided that if I’m going to place myself into the biggest, most prestigious competition out there, and enter into fierce competition with thousands of entries (7,442 this year), knowing full well that only 375 would be Quarter Finalists, I’d better get over myself. Particularly, since I did it with three scripts!

So, here’s how I emerged.

Drama–Two positive reads
Drama–One positive read
Science Fiction–One positive read.

And here’s how I feel about it.

First level… terrible. Of course. I enter everything I enter to win. I know the odds are against me, but I dream big and aim high. If I didn’t it wouldn’t be worth the effort and stress.

Second level…better. It starts to sink in that some Nichol readers like my screenplays.

Third level… happier. Once I put it into common sense perspective, I realized that I really accomplished something encouraging. With three scripts I got six reads, four of which were positive. Four out of six, in this extremely competitive arena, means I’m doing something right. Something I can be proud of. And I am.

I’m at a much better place than I was last year, when the initial results came out. Realizing that it would be very wise to mentally set the Nicholl apart from all other competitions and just try as hard as I can to do the best I can within its rarefied confines has really helped me. It’s fun again to anticipate. And I’m happy to embrace my four positive reads out of six.

I’m very grateful that any Nicholl readers liked my writing. It means a lot and gives me incentive to keep reaching for the stars.

I had originally planned to do a straightforward post about what I loved and didn’t about my Kindle Fire HD 6. I got it in the spring, and have been getting to know it for a few months. My experience so far has been awesome…and awful.

As far as the device itself goes, it’s a love love relationship. As my first tablet, it far outpaces any smartphone I’ve had in the slick, sharp, fun, and cool departments. It’s an absolute joy to use. Unlike most people I need/want smaller screens. My weird eyes need less darting about, which kept me away from tablets, until I saw a random add for a new 6″ Fire on Amazon. I was always looking for a way to paperless proofread. This Fire solved that problem for me, as I explained in this post . While that and reading with a lighted screen were the main reasons I loved it, I quickly discovered so much more.

First, it’s really nice to look at. The screen is bright and sharp. That’s saying a lot, considering how low I like to keep the brightness of my screens. The sound is good on headphones. All this formed  background for my great discovery: Amazon Instant Video. I loved that I could buy music or download what I already owned from the cloud, with the nice big cover art display and some albums coming with scrolling lyrics, but being able to watch video was an awesome extra. Even being careful with usage of my data on the Fire’s WiFi connection, I soon had the Despicable Me 2 Mini Minions Movie Collection, one of my favorite Futuramas (the one where Lord Nibbler kidnaps Fry and takes him to Eternium, where he finds out he’s needed to save the universe…with the eventual aid of Scootie-Puff Sr.), and a free extra featurette from The King’s Speech. These kept me occupied for some time.

Then it all started going south when I was browsing, and accidentally bought a Bugs Bunny season. Oops! What the heck, though. I like Bugs and friends, and it would be cool to download it to my computer to watch whenever I want. Right? Oh, so wrong. I couldn’t find a way to download it to my computer.

I had to be me missing some little something. So I went online and started digging through Help stuff. That led me to the extremely frustrating and disappointing news that the videos can not be downloaded to computers! What the–? Turns out there had been software available from Amazon that did just that…until they discontinued it shortly before I needed it! Leaving the videos only downloadable onto Amazon devices.  Streaming only on other devices.

One of those anvil to the head
moments.

It gets worse. Due to a dearth of choices, I use a limited data WiFi hotspot as my internet service. So streaming is so out. I thought downloading a few Bugs Bunny 2 episode chunks a month would be an extremely annoying solution. But no.

It gets worse again.

When I looked into the downloading options, there’s a recommendation to download the entire season immediately, because even though it’s all supposed to stay in the cloud something could happen and you’d lose access. Oookay.

Now I know that if I download it all at once it will burn through my data, and if I don’t I may lose it. The. Video. Content. I. Have. Bought. I can’t stream, due to the limited nature of my data allowance. Okay, so let’s say I decide the lesser of evils would be to just download as much as I can, as often as I can, and try to enjoy my videos I’m starting to resent.

Well, that’s a great idea! Not!

So, the more you dig into all this detaily stuff, the more you feel the quicksand start to undermine the solid ground you thought you stood on. For when you order the Fire you can get 8GB or the more expensive 16GB. I chose the former, thinking that would be plenty of space for my music, video, app, and book needs on that particular device. I still think that. Only when I was doing my Help digging did I discover that my 8GB of storage is actually a lot less than that in available storage. Now, I know quite a bit about computer stuff, but it never occurred to me that there would be that big a difference between actual storage and available storage.

Some little annoying things, like having no ability to have cool wallpaper on the lockscreen and having to actually pay extra to keep from getting ads as your lock screen image were minor annoyances, especially when I got such a great Kindle/tablet combo for such a great price. This business of needing to download a whole season of something to ensure I can keep the videos I own, yet having so little actual storage that it would crowd or firestorm what I had left after getting so many awesome free App of the Day downloads…well, frustrating is putting it lightly.

I’ve downloaded my favorites of Bugs, and may do the rest a little at a time, watch, delete, then leave them to fend for themselves in the cloud and hope they’re still there if Amazon ever decides to give us back the ability to download them to a computer. Streaming is huge now and those of us who can’t do it are going to face being left out of the, well, stream. As things stand I’m going to have to give up buying video for my Fire, when I run out of room to store it there. I’ve looked into Google Play, but they don’t allow download to computers either. I guess if I want a series on my laptop enough
I’ll have to buy it on DVD with a digital copy, and download it a little at a time. At least the only worry I’d have about the physical copy disappearing is if I lost the DVD.

I really do love my Fire HD 6″. It does a lot, beautifully, and makes my tech loving side happy. That something as “simple” as wanting to enjoy videos on it is so complicated and frustrating is more trouble than it’s worth. Almost. That gorgeous screen….

Just when I think Nikola Tesla can’t get any cooler, this article comes along. Not only was he the blazingly brilliant inventor who fought with Edison over the AC vs DC question, got one upped by Marconi in the race to become the acknowledged inventor of the radio, and wanted to send electricity through the air to us all, it turns out he was also ahead of his time on ideas about women’s intelligence and capability.

It’s no surprise, since the more you learn about Tesla, the more you find out how far into the future his insights reached. Now I find out that he believed women were equal in the smarts department and coming technology would level the field between the sexes. It makes sense that it would provide more equal opportunities, but Tesla takes the importance of emerging tech like wireless communication and what turns out to be our current life of connectivity to the extreme of thinking it will unleash levels of intellect that had long been suppressed in women. Sort of a retro and futuristic version of “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”. In the case of Tesla’s ideas “Baby” is…us and “Nobody” is both men and the broader world of society. He believed it was a matter of time, aided by the technology that would open up the world in ways most people could never imagine.

Nikola Tesla was far from being most people. He was the everyman of a better world. As I’ve said before…if only he had lived to see us now.

I have a lot of Hawaii pictures, mostly of Oahu, quite a few of The Big Island, some of Maui, and a few of Molokai. While looking through some today, I picked out some of my favorites I took on Oahu for a long overdue Random Images post.

This one was taken on The North Shore.

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I love the contrast of sea and sky, darkness and light. The molten look of light on water is like a minor homage to the volcanic nature of the islands.

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The Blow Hole is one of the, sights tourists flock to. It’s exciting to wait for the next time it shoots its plume of water toward the sky, and everyone goes home with the perfect souvenir of their time on the island. Occasionally, people take chances in their quest to experience the Blow Hole. They get too curious, get too close, fall in, and get sucked into the lava tube that gives the hole its name. Very dangerous, for a place of such beauty. On the other hand, patient camera wielders may capture a rainbow in the mists of the plume. Oddly, I saw them, but they were too gloriously fleeting for me to bring one home with me.

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This iconic landmark need no introduction. Diamond Head is perhaps the first image that comes to mind at mention of Hawaii. Well, maybe after hula girls. Whether seen up close, so that it towers over Waikiki or from a distance, framed by waving palms and the blue Pacific, there is no sight more quintessentially Hawaiian than this huge volcano crater. I’ve seen it from the outside, the inside, and from out at sea. There is no bad view of this impressive natural wonder.

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I can’t recall exactly where along Oahu’s many iles of varied beaches this one was taken. I’m almost positive it was on the Leeward Side, but that’s as close as I can get. All I’m sure of is that it’s one of my favorite shoreline shots I took there. It really illustrates the power of nature, as well as the incredible beauty waiting around every turn, of every Hawaiian island.

Now, here’s the weirdpart. I’m experimenting with taking pictures of prints with my phone, instead of scanning with my computer and printer. The above image of waves hitting rocks was enhanced by the phone’s camera and the contrast improved. Honestly, I was just playing with settings and this happened.

Here’s the original, taken when I wasn’t messing with settings.

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This darker, moodier shot of Hawaiian twilight has always been one of my favorites I took there. Sure, the lighter version makes the scene look more photogenic and shows more detail. It also washes out the haunting beauty of the actual moment I stood there, watching the Pacific do to the islands what it’s done for eons. Along with the deeper, truer shades of a Hawaiian twilight, the enhancement removed the generation of the memory that comes when I look at the original. Both make me want to go back there. Only one makes me feel, for an instant, as if I have.

***Lots of spoilers. If you haven’t seen Unbroken and don’t want to know what happened in it, stop reading and run away!***

I watched Unbroken last night and I’m still thinking about it. Some movies burrow deep into a viewer’s brain and stay there for a long time. Especially the ones that tell unbelievable stories that really happened.

Unbroken shows Louis Zamperini being bullied as a boy. It shows him ridiculed as a teen. His brother encourages him to train as a runner. He believes in him. Eventually Zamperini believes in himself enough to become an Olympian. War disrupts his life. His disabled plane is ditched in the pacific and he is one of three survivors. Two come through many weeks of unbearable conditions, from storms to menacing sharks, from attempting to eat a raw bird to beating a shark at its own game, they conquer incredible odds, only to be rescued by the Japanese and forced to endure torture and deprivation at the hands of a cruel prisoner of war lord. The Bird takes particular sadistic pleasure in tormenting his pet Olympic athlete, inflicting beatings and endurance feats that would kill almost anyone. But not Zamperini. He survives it all to come home to his family and eventually marries.

This reads like a lot of movie. A full story, all inclusive. And it is. It’s a wonderful, beautiful, awful, inspiring movie that’s difficult to watch at times and impossible to forget. Yet, all I’ve written about it so far merely beat out the gist of the story. There is a wealth of undercurrent, of subtle emotions, and such powerful impressions that it’s like a calm ocean roiling with so much life and heart and guts and grit beneath its surface that it’s like watching a dozen stories at once. Louis Zamperini, the Italian misfit. The runner. The soldier. The survivor. The survivor, again. The survivor, yet again.

I came across a documentary about him on TV several months ago, so I knew some of the story the movie didn’t cover. Like how he reneged on his promise to God to devote his life to him if he survived his ordeal in the lifeboat. For a while. He went wild after he got home, plagued by PTSD and was on a horrible path, until he attended a Billy Graham crusade and turned his life around. All that is understandable.

What is not understandable is how he was the man he was throughout his wartime ordeal. How does a human being, who at that time is not blessed with a major faith in God, survive what Louis Zamperini survived? Most people, period, would have died at the first ordeal, yet this man kept on and on, day after day, until he came home. I don’t understand it. Maybe it’s not understandable. It is, however, incredibly admirable. And encouraging. And inspiring.

Unbroken is Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut. A very impressive first, indeed. I can’t wait to see what story she shows us next.

Unbroken Trailer

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