Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I still don't want anything for Christmas

So this has been a difficult year for us all and for my family in particular. Some of you might be tempted to send me a card or a gift this Christmas. Please resist that temptation. I live in a cozy home with my life partner Marty and we barely have room for the possessions that we already own. To bring anything else into our home would require us to discard something that we've owned and treasured for years.

So don't get me anything. Not one card, not one pair of socks, nothing. Christmas is more of a holiday for children and other people who lack an income of their own. Getting a $60 video game is pretty sweet when you make $0 a year. I'm an adult with income of my own. I can get whatever I want whenever I want. Go buy something for someone in need.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Place names in A Long Way From Tipperary

1) Planets outside of our solar system are named after the star that they orbit, plus a lower case letter. The first planet discovered orbiting a star is assigned the letter "b" (the parent star is "a"). The closet known exoplanet is Proxima Centauri b. If another planet is found orbiting Proxima Centauri, that planet will likely be named Proxima Centauri c. A third planet would be called Proxima Centauri d. The letters are assigned in order of discovery, not in the order of the distance from their parent star.

So if we applied that naming system to our solar system, this is how it would work: You step out of your house and you discover a big yellow star overhead. You name it "Sol". You look down and you see that you are standing on a planet. You name it "Sol b". Sol a sets below the horizon, and you might see Sol c (Venus, usually the first thing you see in the night sky besides the moon) and Sol d (Mercury). After about an hour or so, you might notice Sol e, Sol f, and Sol g. (Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, depending on the order that you find them.) On a really clear night, you might see Sol h with the naked eye (Uranus), but you'll probably need at least a pair of binoculars. With a decent telescope, you can see Sol i (Neptune).

Why don't scientists give each planet its own name? Because not even all known stars have a name. Most of them get serial numbers. Hell, not even all people get their own name. Ever meet a family with men named "Francis Matherford IV" and "Roger Croningsworth VII"? Maybe if those people spend less money on yachts, they could afford a baby name book.

As far as I know, ALWFT is the first science fiction novel to use the same naming standard for exoplanets as the International Astronomical Union.

2) Place names on Earth do change. England used to be called Albion. New York was once New Amsterdam. Anyone who listens to 80's music knows what Istanbul used to be called. Part of ALWFT takes place in the Kekionga Municipal District, a city formally known as Fort Wayne. Enough people saw Planet of the Apes and agreed with Dr. Zaius that the name was too militaristic, so the name was finally changed.

3) The closet galaxy to Earth (aside from the Milky Way itself) might be what is known as the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy. At 28,000 years away, it's actually closer to us than the opposite side of the Milky Way. If FTL travel is developed, humans might reach the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy before the Milky Way is fully explored. If there are to be human settlements there, they'll have to change the name of that galaxy to avoid offending little people and for marketing purposes. "New Magellanic Cloud" is one possible name.

Come find out more about my novel here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Trump doesn't want to be President

Donald Trump doesn't want to be President. Donald Trump will not allow himself to become President. At this point, we have to assume one or more of the following about Donald Trump:
1) He is trying to destroy the GOP.
2) He is trying to get Hillary Clinton elected.
3) He has some other agenda that is completely incompatible with him getting elected President.
4) Even after a year on the campaign trail, he simply fails to grasp what it takes to appeal to the majority of voters and be elected President.

A man who wants to be President doesn′t mock POW′s or gold star families.

A man who wants to be President doesn′t throw a fit and skip a debate.

A man who wants to be President avoids going negative in the primary. Ronald Reagan′s famous 11th Commandment: ″Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican″ applies during the primaries because you are competing against men and women whose support you will need after the convention.

A man who wants to be President doesn′t talk about ″bringing Joe Paterno back″ in Pittsburgh. Joe Paterno knew that Jerry Sandusky was having sex with little boys. He lost his coaching job at Penn State because of this. If he hadn′t died of cancer, Paterno could have been charged with a felony.

A man who wants to be President would do some basic research and realize that most voters are women. The things you say that get high fives from the guys will get women to pull the other lever.

A man who wants to be President does not promote conspiracy theories. Some might argue that this blog post itself is a conspiracy theory. I′m ok with you all thinking that for now, since I′m not running for President. But my hunch is that Donald Trump is trying to destroy the GOP. I think that in his heart, he is a Manhattan liberal. He has mistreated women all of his life and never had to worry about getting fired or going to jail. Deep down it′s eating at him.

Like most billionaires nearing the end of their lives, Trump is more concerned with leaving a lasting legacy than adding more money to the pile. Andrew Carnegie built libraries and schools. After getting rich off of yellow journalism, Joseph Pulitzer created the journalism award that bears his name. Trump will create his own legacy by destroying a 162 year old political party. It is costing him millions of dollars and it is wrecking his brand and his reputation, but this is atonement for him. Men have given up more for less. If Trump actually wants to be President and is working with that goal in mind, none of his actions make sense.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Long Way From Tipperary

I love space operas. But instead of remembering 50 year anniversaries, we should be looking to the future. The universe needs new heroes. We need stories of epic adventures that won't be rebooted by J.J. Abrams, sold to Disney, or canceled by Fox.

Folks, I need your help launching this exciting new novel Click here for details. Amazon might send you a free copy if they decide to publish it.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Zaphod Effect: The Best Thing The Next President Can Do For The Economy

The best thing that a President can do to help the economy is give the press something else to talk about besides the economy. Economics boils down to applied psychology: when people think the economy is bad, they cut back on spending and investing. The media picks up on this and continues to talk about how bad the economy is. And consumers continue to avoid spending, and investors continue to avoid investing, and the media talks about that, continuing on in a viscous cycle.

To break the cycle, the media needs something else to talk about. The reason why the economy was so great during the 90's is because Bill Clinton accidentally gave the media all sorts of things to talk about. Bush had a recession that went away after 9/11. But a new recession started when people got bored with the War on Terror.

I call this the Zaphod Effect. Zaphod Beeblebrox was the President of the Galaxy in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. His sole responsibility was to distract the public.

Many economists will insist that the Zaphod Effect isn't real. This is because the only time anyone pays attention to them is when the economy is bad. And for the Zaphod Effect to work, we have to ignore them.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Explaining Trump's popularity

A lot of political science is forensic. We try to explain the past rather than correctly predict the future. A lot of people assumed George H. W. Bush  would be re-elected in 1992 because of Desert Storm. A lot of people thought Al Gore was going to win in 2000 because of anti-GOP blowback from the impeachment process. A lot of people thought Hillary Clinton would be the nominee in 2008 because it was her turn. So really we can only look back and explain what happened.

Donald Trump is a very unusual candidate. I didn't think he was serious about running last year. Billionaires tend not to run for president, because that would be like a millionaire applying to work at WalMart. The annual salary of the President is less than .05% of any billionaire's net worth. And every presidential election this century, the wealthier of the two establishment party candidates always came in second. Presidential candidates typically have prior experience serving in elected office and/or in the military. Trump has spent his entire life in the private sector.

So let's dissect why he has done so well so far.

1, Name recognition This is the easiest explanation right here. When people ask me why Trump is polling well, I quiz them on the other candidates. And Trump is the only candidate who they can name what he does for a living. When I was in elementary school during the 80's, I knew who Trump was. I didn't know who Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, or even Hillary Clinton were back then. Trump has been a household name for decades.

2. Perceived competence "You know he's good with money," a Trump fan told me last year. Trump got rich in the first place because he was born into a wealthy family. He became wealthier through a combination of both prudent and shady investments. This describes a lot of politicians in fact, and not even most of them are worthy of holding elected office. Just because some trust fund kid survives into old age doesn't mean we should hand him the nuclear football if he asks for it.

3. Perceived honesty "He tells it like it is!" a lot of his fans will say. Let's not mistake political incorrectness for honesty, though. Trump makes promises that educated adults should know he can't keep. Check out all the statements that he makes that get rated "Pants on Fire" by PolitiFact.

4. Media coverage It's all about ratings and pageviews. The media likes to talk about the zaniest guy on the stage. Television is a poor medium for learning about politics. A candidate can soberly state his informed position on a current issue, but the audience will forget what he said and remember anything funny or outrageous the next morning. Trump says things that are geared more towards upsetting people than solving problems, and the media rewards him with extra airtime and column inches that he doesn't have to pay for. And I'll admit that I'm part of the problem with this very blog post. You need to admit that you are part of the problem if you know more about the Donald's personal life and how many times he has been married than you know about what the other candidates had to say about healthcare, foreign policy, and taxes.

5. The GOP establishment and liberals hate Trump By going after Trump, Democrats are luring GOP primary voters into supporting a candidate that Clinton would very much like to run against. I actually know a Bernie Sanders supporter who says that if Bernie drops out before he gets a chance to vote, he plans to vote for Trump in the primary and Hillary in the general election.Trump is a strawman capitalist made into flesh. He is like a businessman movie villain supplied by Central Casting. Progressives love to hate Trump, and it's like they are using reverse psychology to get Republicans to nominate the weakest possible candidate.