miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
I've been taking part in the April NaNoWriMo thingy called "Camp NaNoWriMo" in order to stop me procrastinating about rewriting my story "Companions". So far I've worked on the first two chapters. I'll work on the third today. Everything gets uploaded to as I do it. Hopefully I'll complete it this time.

Here is a button:
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Corruption is a real, creeping problem and many of society's standard tools fail to stop its encroachment. It seems to be destroying democracy in many parts of the world. The USA is a case in point, where it is simply accepted that politicians accept bribes from big corporations. Australia has been hurrying down the same path too. We now don't even raise our eyebrows when a politician lies or steals money or diverts the public good to benefit rich mates.

This has bothered me for some time and I have seen no easy way around it. I've often gloomily wondered if time was up for western civilisation and we need to fall to make way for more vibrant societies. But I don't like that idea because it would hurt many people. There should be some ways to set rules for society that change the way things work. If they are carefully aimed then they could go a long way toward fixing many of society's greatest ills.

Here is an attempt. Please tell me what you think.

Rules for politicians and others who hold positions of public trust

Violating any of these rules would mark an individual as unfit to hold public office and unable to properly serve society, requiring them to be dismissed from office.

Certain people and groups who benefit from positions of power and influence in private industry may have some of these rules applied to them too if they misuse that power and influence to the detriment of larger society.

All companies and corporations should be bound by the first 6 rules as they are not human and must not be allowed to damage society.

* * *

  1. They must not promote hatred against any group, nor use their position to disadvantage any group. 1(see notes below)

  2. They must not mislead the public through lies of commission or omission.

  3. Discussions and debate must be conducted rationally, and answers to legitimate questions must be promptly and clearly given. Failure to answer a legitimate question clearly must be considered a lie of omission. Calling people names, shouting at people, evasion, clouding the issue, obfuscating, and using tricks of emotional persuasion in lieu of logic can not be tolerated in people entrusted with great power. They are techniques for people who are not comfortable with the truth, so unsuitable for those in public office.

  4. Secrets can not be tolerated. Secrecy always invites corruption. Transparency is the only way to prove dealings are honest. Dishonesty and corruption must be made incompatible with positions of power. 2(see notes below)

  5. They must not misappropriate or steal money from the public purse for themselves, their family, or friends. This also applies to goods such as materials, services, or contracts.

  6. They must not accept bribes of money, or favours, or promises of them, in return for actions.

    ---- the items below apply only to people in public office ----

  7. They may not receive gifts, donations, or promise of employment from companies or organisations. All donations must be from individuals only. All donations, no matter how small, must be registered in a public list (amount and donor) easily available electronically for easy monitoring to avoid the risk of bribery. It should be clear that anyone objecting to this has bribes to hide.

  8. During and for a period of 10 years after their term of public office they must not accept any position for money or favours with any private company or non-government organisation. Accepting such returns should be penalised by imprisonment (fining such abusers is no deterrent). 3(see notes below)

  9. They must demonstrate more than a current high-school level of understanding of broad fields of science and history. Modern society depends deeply upon science. Any position of power requires a broad understanding of the sciences. History is important because those who don't understand it are doomed to repeat its mistakes. A high level of knowledge is needed because in today's world ignorance can do far too much damage when coupled with great power. We require a certain level of competence when someone gets behind the wheel of a car or airplane; so it should be for steering a nation.

  10. They may not use, for themselves or their family, private transport, private education, or private health care where public alternatives exist. To hold public office requires that they have that intimate understanding of public systems that only comes with their regular use. Any public official who is insulated from public services can not possibly understand them or that large part of society that depends upon them.

  11. Due to its dangerously divisive nature, religion must not be any part of public office. If religious views are held, they have no place in public and must be kept absolutely private. History shows religion can too easily be used to deceive and to rationalise actions that disadvantage members of other religions and those who have no need for religion. A person in public office must be capable of fairly representing all of society, and one who loudly proclaims their religion is clearly unable to do that.


1 [Rule 1] It is sadly predictable that it will be argued that using tax and the law to remove some excessive wealth and power from some individuals and groups "disadvantages" them. This twists the intent of rule 1. History shows that it is necessary to properly tax the wealthy and remove excessive power from those who misuse it in order to prevent disadvantage to large parts of society. Those taxes actually benefit the wealthy. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr put it, "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization."

2 [Rule 4] This refers to secrets held by those in power. Individuals are entitled to personal secrets, but groups and companies are not -- they are not people. Secrets are widely assumed to be necessary in some circumstances. I have never heard a logical argument for why this could be so. Some activities might only be possible through the use of secrecy, but those activities are almost never in the best interests of society. Those few that might actually help society (I've never heard of any) can be safely relinquished because of the great risk of corruption they always bring with them. Open Source programming has shown clearly that removing secrecy actually increases safety and security. The cult of secrecy is based upon an outdated and dangerous misconception.

3 [Rule 8] This is to prevent the common practice of a public figure making decisions to benefit a group during office and then being rewarded after public life by receiving a lucrative job with them. This is simple bribery and corrupts every level of public office. It must be stopped. It is unfortunate that there will be cases where an ex-official wants to work honestly for a company where they can deliver genuine insight and expertise, but this must be renounced in order to prevent a massive form of corruption continuing unabated. Ex-officials are already well rewarded financially and there are plenty of pro-bono activities that would benefit society.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
What a surprise. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology has put out its annual report on the past year's weather and it's conclusion that 2013 was the hottest on record was completely ignored by climate denialist press owned by Murdoch. Instead, they choose to report on extreme cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere. Seems in their willful blindness they've not noticed that global warming will drive extremes, so that hotter than normal and colder than normal weather can be expected -- like pushing a pendulum harder, it swings further both ways, even though the whole thing moves gradually further to the hotter side. In fact there is tentative evidence that one of the early side-effects from global warming might be a mini-ice age for the Northern Hemisphere, putting Europe and North America under a kilometer of ice for perhaps a century while the Southern Hemisphere continues to bake in rising temperatures. Fun. :(

What a wonderful service Murdoch and his cronies are doing for Australia and the world. Even children who watch Spiderman know "with great power comes great responsibility". The only thing I wonder is when (not if) he and his lackeys will be sued into bankruptcy and hopefully imprisoned for their nasty efforts. It's taking longer than I expected, but I figure it's bound to happen sooner or later. I will be cheering when it does, someone so intent on wrecking the world for short-term profit needs to lose every vestige of that power so misused.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Here's something for your inner geek. The Surplus Shed is having a sale for the next 3 days where everything is 44% off. Want some scientific gear that you just can't find elsewhere? They have lots of optics and gears, as well as plenty of other scientific equipment (check the drop-down list in the top left corner of their pages). These are the people I bought my Scientific American Amateur Scientist CDROM from.

To get the 44% discount you must use the coupon code: SS140201 when ordering.

The sale ends Tuesday 7th January 11:59pm Eastern Time USA (I'm pretty bad at working out time zones, but I think that's mid-afternoon Wednesday for us in Eastern Oz). Hmmm... that's more than 3 days... odd. Oh. Working days. They're not counting the weekend.

I just spent about an hour browsing the microscope, solar panel, robotics, and various other sections. There are a few things there I'd love to buy if I had more spare money. [sigh]
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Am I the only person who wears their underwear and nightwear with the seams on the outside? It seems odd to me that most people wear them with the seams on the inside, next to the skin. Nobody sees your undies, so there doesn't seem to be any rational reason to wear the seams uncomfortably inward.

It is like a house. The exterior wall is smooth, with the battens on the inside. The interior of the house has this reversed, with the smooth walls inside and the battens hidden behind them inside the walls.

I think it's good sense to keep the uncomfortable seams away from your body. Why do people put up with seams pressing against them? Maybe they don't find them as uncomfortable as I do.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Well, just another couple of hours and NaNoWriMo 2013 ends. My story still has two and a half chapters to go, so I certainly won't be completing it tonight, and I'm okay with that -- disappointed, but okay. I'll continue to write it. I still think it's a good idea, even if I'm the only person in the world who'll think so. :)

I hope those others of you who attempted NaNo this year achieved more than I did. NaNo is really valuable and I'm very grateful for the push it helps me give myself.

Right now I'm off to bed.

Nighty night all.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
I have just gotta have one of these for my Raspberry Pi.

Get it from Adafruit when it becomes available soon.
They'll even email you when it's in if you want.
Adafruit has the most wonderfully geeky stuff -- nerd paradise. [sigh]
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Finally got chapter 4 of my Companions story written. It's an important chapter, but I don't know if it works. I don't mean that I doubt it, I mean I honestly have no idea... so we'll just get on with the next chapter.

Not quite sure how to do the next chapter. If it gets too difficult to write I guess it can be dropped and just get on with the one after. It isn't necessary, but it would round out a part of the story that feels like it needs it. Well, we'll see won't we. Wish me luck.

Let me know what you think of this chapter please.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
It turns out the TPP would basically destroy the internet and replace it with something totally controlled by giant corporations. The bastards want to do to the internet what was done to radio, newspapers, and TV and make us silent consumers once again.

miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Damn! This is one of those times I wish I was still in Melbourne.

Cory Doctorow will be in Melbourne next week to do a series of events with the Center for Youth Literature of the State Library of Victoria. He's doing four events:
  • The science of fiction - Friday 22 November 2013, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
  • Creative versus Commons - Saturday 23 November 2013, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
  • Digital fiction masterclass - Sunday 24 November 2013, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
  • Future fiction with teens - Monday 25 November 2013, 10:00am - 12:00pm
Event schedules and signups:
(Booking is essential.)
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Remember, some months back the Cassini team was getting ready to turn its cameras back upon Saturn to take a mosaic of images that would show Saturn and its rings backlit by the sun? Remember that Earth was going to be in the image and that people were asked to go outside and smile upwards so they could remember the time as a very special image?

After months of work processing the images they are now available for download at http://ciclops.org where it is currently the main-page story.

More description and links to the image pages:
The annotated image is especially interesting.
(Unfortunately you can't simply download the images. You need to go to each image's page and save the picture from there, although one advantage of this is that it gives you a chance to give some small feedback by rating the image.)

Our lonely blue dot

The Cassini team also took some special high-resolution images of just Earth. Just try feeling that any "-isms" or that any puffed-up celebrities or politicians are important while looking at this image.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Chapter 3 of my story Companions is now online.

This one is much shorter than the others. I didn't even make my writing target of 2,000 words written for the day because I spent a lot of the day doing research. The main character of this chapter is someone who loves playing computer games, but after talking to my nephew, Dan, who knows an incredible amount about this stuff, I came to realise just how totally out of my depth I was. I don't play any games at all and I found it really difficult to put myself in the headspace of someone who does. So I concentrated on what I do know -- the building of 3D virtual worlds for those who do use them for gaming. I just hope the result isn't flat-out boring for you.

Please let me know what you think.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
The second chapter of my story Companions is now online.

Once again this chapter is quite a bit shorter than I'd expected. I'll definitely be finishing NaNoWriMo by writing a bunch of short stories after Companions is finished.

I really do need to push myself to write regularly. Thank goodness for NaNoWriMo. It's a nice trick for getting me used to sitting down and disciplining myself -- something I've never been good at.

So... on with the 3rd chapter. This one will be hard. I added it in fairly late, after all the others were sketched out, and I have only the vaguest notion of how to write it because I don't play games in the usual sense. [gulp] For me learning is the most fun I can have. What other people call games I just find stressful and pointless. Well, I'll just have to spend some time in another person's mindset for a chapter. :)
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Okay, the first chapter of Companions, my new story, is up on my site at:
It is quite a lot shorter than I'd expected, which is a bit of a worry. At this rate the whole novel will come in at way less than my projected length. But that's okay really... I can finish NaNoWriMo writing some of the gazillion other short story ideas I have.

You can always find my story page at:

Let me know what you think. I have absolutely no idea what the result is like. It feels okay to me, but I'm too close to it to really know.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
I'm excited. I'd been panicking a bit as I'd been having difficulty mapping out my story. I mean, I already know what the story is about, but I needed a sequence to hang it from, to build it around. Well, yesterday in the wee small hours, just after midnight, I woke and the story outline just fell out onto the computer screen. I continued adding bits and pieces up until bedtime.

This morning I woke about 4:45am and the character descriptions did the same thing. They just fell out. It was wonderful. I already knew in broad strokes who these characters were, but now I have clear pictures of them, their backstories, their traits. I even feel a desire to draw them. I might do that if I have time during the month, or perhaps in December.

Often I begin NaNo at midnight, but this time I'm going to bed early after a nice meal of veges (I always think better after a meal of veges), intending to rise as usual about 5am to begin writing. I seem to work best in the morning.

I won't post each day's writing because at this point it seems there will only be 6 chapters, so I'll post each chapter as I finish it -- probably one every 3 or 4 days I hope.

My excitement for this story is growing. [squeee!]
I hope it works.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
I just now received my Amateur Scientist CDROM. It contains every one of the Amateur Scientist columns printed in Scientific American from 1928 to 2001 -- 73 years!!! When I was a kid this was the part I most looked forward to in each new issue of Scientific American. Now I have them all!!! Woo hoo!!

This CD used to cost hundreds of dollars, but is now just $30. I think perhaps in trying to sell them at a few hundred dollars each they must have merely accumulated dust. Now they are being sold at a sensible price by Surplus Shed in USA.

The Amateur Scientist CD at The Surplus Shed:

A feast of delights was waiting for me on the CD. What I didn't expect is a wealth of bonus supporting information too. About a hundred articles and lists that never appeared in Scientific American but which are extremely useful for many of the experiments. For example, there are lists of the density and optical qualities of different materials, articles on the preparation and preservation of marine algae, DNA fingerprinting, glass blowing, what to do in case of electric shock, casting metal, coating materials using sputtering and evaporative techniques... and much much more. It is a real treasure chest.

I am sooo happy. Yay!

One tiny problem is that the disk was obviously prepared on a Microsoft Windows machine which is blind to the difference between uppercase and lowercase in filenames. This is a problem when copying it to the hard drive for use on Linux or any of the other operating systems that do see the difference. The most common problem is pictures not showing up. There is a fairly easy workaround however: it can either be used from the CD (but I prefer to keep the CD somewhere safe as a backup), or it can be copied to a FAT32 formatted drive (most thumbdrives come preformatted as FAT32) as Microsoft's FAT32 filing system can't distinguish upper/lower case. One day I'll write a small program to go through all the html pages and fix all the errors automatically.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Well, it took far too long, and I have no idea what it is like, but I have finally finished my "flying" story.

You can find it on my stories page:
or go directly to the story at:

I've uploaded an epub version of this book along with the online version. Now you can read it on your phone or tablet or other handheld device.

Please let me know what you think of it.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Remember Jeri Ellsworth? Well, she's back with something truly wonderful. This electronics wizard has developed a revolutionary system for augmented reality that lets you make something like Star Trek's holodeck inside your own room.

She has built some special glasses that take a video signal from your computer and project it as a 3D image out into your surroundings so that you and others in the room appear to be sharing the space with computer-generated objects. She's also built a wand to help you interact with them (though I believe this will become obsolete as computer-recognition of hand actions comes of age). Because you can walk around these objects and they can be viewed from any angle, the other people in the room see the same objects from the various angles that they all should too. You have 6 degrees of freedom (move-up-down, move-left-right, move-forward-back, turn-left-right, roll-left-right, pitch-down-up) in viewing the scene, just as you have in the real world.

A tabletop with a gameboard appearing to sit atop it, surrounded by a deep pit.
This early example required a dim room, but the newer version operates in a normally lit room.
And because the images are projected out into the space around you they are at natural distances instead of the unnatural infinite distance most systems use. It avoids the nausea of motion sickness which is the bane of many systems because it has extremely high accuracy (sub-millimeter) and very fast response so there is no perceptible lag and the movements reported by your inner-ear balance sense matches your vision perfectly.

She and Rick Johnson (the software guy) have started a Kickstarter project to fund it. I'm a backer, of course, though because of my poverty I'm unable to contribute much. I can hardly wait to get my hands on this technology! I want to make a holodeck. :D Yay!

Here is some further info.
Jeri talking about the history and technical details of the project:
The Kickstarter page:
The home page for Technical Illusions the company they've started up to make this:
"Tested" review of the CastAR featuring interviews with Jeri and Rick:
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
After we killed off CISPA more than a year ago the zombies are trying to resurrect it. A bunch of USA senators who are associated with the NSA want to bring in CISPA to grant the NSA even more powers. Oh, wouldn't that be fun.

If you live in USA demand your representative act in your interests, not in the interests of scary, unnaccountable, corrupt spooks.

Enough already! How do we get rid of these confounded zombies!?!
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
Check out the amazing art of a very unusual young girl named Ellie Castellanos at http://www.elliecastellanos.com -- a website run by her Mum. I can hardly wait to see what the future brings for this cool young mind. I am so grateful that there are people like her Mum out there because they show how wonderful our species can be.
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