Communion Of Dreams

See you at the crossroads.
July 31, 2011, 11:28 am
Filed under: Predictions, Privacy, Science Fiction, Society, tech, Travel

From Chapter 3 of Communion of Dreams:

The image of Seth disappeared, to be replaced by what seemed to be a miniature landscape of hills, a road, a small river, and a bridge. On one of the hills appeared a small person, looking around as though trying to find something. Ling commenced to play with the controls on the side of the projector. Jon didn’t recognize the game, looked to Klee.

The German smiled. In English he said, “No, it’s probably not a game you’ve ever played. It’s a little something Seth and I came up with to help her learn the fundamentals of game theory. In this first level, she has to learn how to communicate with the figure, and agree on a meeting place. The obvious choice is dictated by the terrain features: where the road crosses the river, there is a bridge. That is a unique point in the landscape, and hence a good starting point to establish a reference. The game goes on to introduce other concepts,using a variety of terrain features, multiple players, tacit and explicit communication, cooperation, and competition. She’s quite good at it, and no matter which variables the machine uses, Ling sees the essential key to each scenario quickly. Soon she’ll have mastered the principles of a zero-sum game, and we’ll move on to other lessons.”

* * * * * * *

Via BoingBoing:

‘Sleepy market town’ surrounded by ring of car cameras

Despite low levels of crime, police are installing a network of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras around historic Royston, Herts.

Police claim the devices will help catch criminals as Royston lies close to the borders of three counties and is the juncture of several main roads.

However, opponents claim the scheme is “grossly disproportionate”, an invasion of residents’ privacy and an unlawful expansion of Britain’s Big Brother state.

The system records the number plates of all vehicles passing through the cameras, logging their details in national database for up to five years.

* * * * * * *

It’s not the first time it’s been done, of course, though this is a somewhat larger scale. And after all, why should we worry? The use of surveillance cameras and other scanners is popular. It makes people feel safer. And if you aren’t doing anything wrong, why should you care?

Control the rules, and you control the game. See you at the crossroads.

Jim Downey

Still flat.
July 27, 2011, 9:50 am
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Bipolar, Book Conservation, Failure, Marketing, Publishing

I mentioned a week ago that I felt “flat”. I still do.

On our walk this morning I was thinking about it, after mentioning to my Good Lady Wife that I felt about ‘half a bubble off’ and that I just didn’t ‘fit into my skin right’ that this is likely just my normal lowpoint in my bipolar cycle. The timing is right, the feeling is right. I hadn’t really noticed it because I had been working so hard to stay focused on getting Her Final Year ready for publication, with all the creative energy that generated.

Work that meant I got very little other, paying, work done, I should add. Meaning that I’m feeling more than a little financial pressure to boot, of the ‘short-term-cash-flow’ variety. That we’ve sold a grand total of 9 books so far isn’t helping my frame of mind – making me more than a little nervous that this is all going to turn out to be one more of my brilliant ideas which is a complete fiasco.

Like I said – hitting or heading towards the lowpoint in my bipolar cycle. Charming, isn’t it?

Ah, well. I know how to walk through this. Focus on the things I *can* do. Conservation work. Marketing the book by writing about it in the proper venues. Water my garden. Put one foot in front of the other. Try and stay healthy, and hope for the best.

We’ll see what happens.

Jim Downey

In praise of a passing flame.
July 22, 2011, 2:32 pm
Filed under: NASA, Predictions, Space, tech, YouTube

As noted, I’ve been more than a bit preoccupied with something else of late. But I do want to take a moment and pass along this delightful tribute, via Phil Plait:

I was never a hard-core Shuttle fan. The whole project was a series of compromises, both political and technological, and it never lived up to the original promise. And yet . . .

. . . and yet even with all that being true, the Shuttle, and the people who made it work, undeniably accomplished remarkable things. It would be churlish to say otherwise, just because it didn’t meet my youthful expectations.

We all compromise in the face of reality. But those who still manage to create the future even with that limitation deserve our honor, and our praise. Life is short, and the stars are far away.

Jim Downey

July 20, 2011, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Health, Kindle, Promotion, Publishing, Writing stuff

In light of yesterday’s anticipation, today’s official announcement actually has me feeling sorta “flat.”

I’m not sure why. The book is now available in both Kindle and paperback versions, and all the preliminary indicators are that things will go well – we’ve even sold a book already! I should be excited.

Instead, I just feel tired and unmotivated. Odd.

Jim Downey

“You must hear this.”
July 19, 2011, 5:53 pm
Filed under: NPR, Science Fiction

To play off the NPR series a bit…

I just found out that A Canticle for Liebowitz is available for download. No, not the book – the wonderful NPR radio play adaptation from 1981.

I heard this when it was first broadcast, and then caught a bit of it a few years later when it was re-broadcast. But then it disappeared, and wasn’t available through anywhere but bootleg copiers.

If you haven’t already, you must hear this.

Jim Downey

“Please keep hands and feet inside the car.”
July 19, 2011, 12:49 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Guns, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing

Well, I think we’re about ready to launch Her Final Year. Preliminary feedback on the website has all been very good – seems that the site works for a variety of different platforms and browsers. The book is still working its way through the Amazon system, is available on our e-commerce site as well as through the Kindle Store but not yet in Amazon’s general titles – though I expect that will change sometime today. The first shipment of paperbacks should arrive sometime today or tomorrow, and they can then be sent to those who helped us along the way as a thank-you. We’ve started to contact media outlets, and I already know that the newspaper I used to write for is planning on doing a piece about the book. And I’ve started to work up an article for about “Alzheimer’s & firearms.” Announcements are being made to send to friends and colleagues. In short, we’re almost ready.

It feels like those last moments waiting for a thrill ride, where the announcement comes over the loudspeaker reminding you to keep your hands and feet inside the car. The adrenaline surges, your hair stands on end, and a stupid half-fearful smile tries to form on your lips. In a moment, it will all start, and only then will you find out whether the ride was worth the cost of admission.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to the HFY blog.)

The unpredicted.
July 17, 2011, 11:05 am
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Predictions, Publishing, Writing stuff

Again, Her Majesty is sleeping on the pink pillow in my office, content in the way that only an old blind cat can be.

* * * * * * *

It was a long week. A surprisingly long week. The bit of a cold I was coming down with last weekend decided to try and find new frontiers in my chest. Given how sick I was with pneumonia last summer (and the lingering pain of the torn intercostal muscles that resulted from that), I decided that taking it *very* easy for a few days was the only smart course of action. Lots of naps, lots of tea, lots of codeine to suppress coughing.

But still, there was progress. The proof copy of Her Final Year arrived. We went over it to make sure everything translated OK for the printing, then ordered in promotional copies for my co-author and I. Uploaded the Kindle files. Built the e-commerce site to go with our website. Made sure the Kindle version translated properly. Got a Facebook page made. And are still working to get the final tweaks and changes to the website before going public with everything.

No, I didn’t do most of this. At best, my contribution has been to do a bit of writing for the website, try and help coordinate things. I know when to stay out of the way and leave others who are more skilled to get the work done. All credit goes to my Good Lady Wife and my co-author.

* * * * * * *

And likewise, I don’t deserve any credit for Her Majesty’s surprising resilience. Yeah, she’s sleeping quietly now, but the last few days have been remarkable. She’s still mostly blind, partially deaf. But she’s started navigating with much more intent, no longer randomly wandering in a lazy figure 8, bouncing off of the same things time and again. Her appetite has returned. Her desire to seek out and use the litterbox is back.

There was a point a week or so ago when I almost called the vet to discuss “that decision”. I held off because even though she seemed due little but pity, she also didn’t seem to be in any pain.

I am, of course, glad that I held off. Sometimes things come together in ways unpredicted.

Jim Downey

That’s almost the textbook definition
July 14, 2011, 7:19 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Publishing

of “mixed emotions” – the 40th anniversary of my mom’s death in a car accident and getting this:

Yeah, that’s the proof copy of Her Final Year. And it looks perfect.

We’ll be asking for “beta” testers for the website soon. If you’re interested and willing, drop me a note or post a comment.

Jim Downey

July 12, 2011, 11:29 am
Filed under: NASA, Science, Space, tech

Via The Last Shuttle, an amazing Virtual Reality Panorama of the Space Shuttle Discovery’s flight deck at the time of decommissioning.


More on all of this, once I’m not entirely preoccupied with getting Her Final Year launched.

Jim Downey

Endings, and beginnings.
July 10, 2011, 2:13 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Failure, Hospice, Predictions, Publishing

‘Her Majesty’ is curled up on a pink pillow here in my office. She doesn’t venture too far now. Just wanders a bit until I pick her up, take her to be tempted with a bit of canned food, or some water, or a litter box.

* * * * * * *

I just finished proof-reading Her Final Year. This is the version formatted for print-on-demand, so it was a painstakingly close look to make sure that not only had we caught all the little typos and whatnot, but that the layout was right. It took me four days of very close reading to do this – but not nearly as much work as my Good Lady Wife put into preparing the text.

This afternoon I’ll take care of setting up everything for publication of both the Kindle version as well as the print-on-demand version. Probably upload the files tomorrow. Also this afternoon, go over the website design with my GLW, so we can get that going and ready for ‘beta testing’.

* * * * * * *

There’s almost a fear being at this point. A trepidation. Did we do everything right? Will people find the finished product of value? Will we be ignored, laughed at?

I don’t know if it makes sense. But we have a solid 30 months of work in this book. Not just me. Not just me and my wife. Not even just me, my wife, my co-author and his wife. No, we also have about a score of people who have done test-readings and provided feedback. And plenty of friends and family who have encouraged us.

It’s that moment, standing on the edge, looking down, wondering just how insane you have to be to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, trusting to so many things going right or at least not horribly wrong.

* * * * * * *

The emotional sense is right. The echoes of the final days of caring for Martha Sr that come from reading about that experience jibe perfectly as I pick up the cat, settle her on her pillow for one of the last times. The clock clicks, wheels turn.

And soon we will see what happens.

Jim Downey