Communion Of Dreams


‘Watch the skies, everywhere!”

That’s from the 1951 classic The Thing from Another World, one of the first (and defining) science fiction movies which set the stage for much of what was to come even to the present day.

It was also very much a product of the early Cold War era, reflecting the fear* of the USSR and atomic weaponry. This is typical — science fiction usually is a reflection of (or commentary on) the technology and social conditions of the era when it was created.

So, what to make of two news items which showed up this week?

Here’s the first:

First State Legalizes Taser Drones for Cops

It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist.

With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with “less than lethal” weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it.

And here’s the second:

Welcome to the World, Drone-Killing Laser Cannon

Hang on to your drone. Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage.

The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars—there’s no flying beams of light, no “pew! pew!” sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down.

* * *

Instead of a massive laser mounted on a dedicated truck, the compact system is small enough to fit in four suitcase-sized boxes and can be set up by a pair of soldiers or technicians in just a few minutes. At the moment, it’s aimed primarily at driving drones away from sensitive areas.

 

I’m already seeing posts by friends on social media complaining about drones being operated by annoying neighbors, with discussion about what possible solutions there might be to deal with them (both by legal recourse and um, more informal approaches). There have been a number of news items already about people who have shot down drones, and there’s even a company advertising a specific kind of shotgun ammunition for just that.

“Watch the skies!”, indeed.

 

Jim Downey

*As good an explanation as any.



Spirit of 1776

Remember this little fellow?

Kitten

That was three weeks ago. Well, here he was about an hour ago, watching me from a rag bag under my workbench in the bindery:

20150529_145513

Kinda hard to tell from those pics, but he’s grown and is starting to take on more “cat” characteristics, though he is still *very* much a kitten. And my shins have the scratches to prove it.

 

* * *

Been busy: Ammo test results in the Boberg XR45-S

Prep & clean-up took most of a full week. But good to get that test sequence done.

 

* * *

“Spirit of 1776”? It’s a little early to be invoking Independence Day stuff, isn’t it?

Yeah, I know. There’s more than a month before we get to that.

But that’s the number of this blog post, in the running tally which WordPress keeps. Who woulda thunk it?

 

Jim Downey



Stereotomy*

For those who don’t know, one of my other interests is handgun ballistics research. Specifically, in regards to how barrel length effects bullet velocity for different cartridges and loadings. Even if you don’t like guns, the physics behind ballistic performance can be very interesting.

And here’s a wonderfully graphic image showing those physical forces:

Ruger Alaskan .44 Magnum

Text from the source to go with this image (site is Finnish, and English is not the author’s first language):

Let’s talk a bit about .44 Magnum cartridge. Despite of being very close to diameter of .45ACP the .44Mag is totally different beast. Average .45ACP round generates ~650J of hit energy while .44Mag makes easily 1600J and can be pushed much more beyond that. This specific gun however cannot utilize all potential of .44 Magnum cartridge because of very short barrel. It simply cannot burn all powder. As you can see there is huge cone shaped spray of unburnt stuff flying in the air. With longer barrel show would be different.

Ok, you may have noticed the flames. They are something we haven’t seen before. Especially when you look picture below and huge left side flame in it. Interesting thing is that major amount of the flame is escaping between cylinder and barrel. That short barrel seems to puff bullet our so fast that powder mass just flies out unignited.

The site is filled with a bunch of great high-speed camera images of guns being fired. And it also has something else which is new to me: ‘natural stereoscopic’ images of guns being fired. Like this one:

Now, what do I mean ‘natural stereoscopic’ images? Well, this is pretty cool itself. Here’s a reference link & explanation from the Kuulapaa site:

Help: How to Free-View the Stereo Pairs

Each stereo view consists of two images, one for each eye. Free viewing is the technique that will allow you to direct each of these images separately and simultaneously into each eye. Once that happens, you are said to have “fused” the pair of images into a stereo view.

At the bottom of this page a stereo pair of images is loading with which you can practice. All the stereo pairs shown on this site are in the “cross-eyed” format (my apologies to all the “wall-eyed” people). That means that the first (leftmost) image is for your right eye and the right image is for your left eye.

There are then a series of practice image to show what he means and give you a chance to develop this viewing skill. It works fairly well for me, but does tire my eye muscles fairly quickly. Give it a try and see how you do.

Jim Downey

*Couldn’t resist. Lyrics here.

Cross posted to the BBTI blog.



When I’m Fifty-Four.*

My wife answered the phone. I could tell just from her facial expression that it was bad news.

“Oh, no!” she said. “What happened?”

 

* * * * * * * *

As part of putting together the Kickstarter project for St. Cybi’s Well, I need to explain *why* I want people to hand over their hard-earned money. I mean, I don’t need to buy materials or hire someone to do research for me. I don’t need operating capital for renting a studio, there’s no up-front printing costs to speak of. Why not just write St. Cybi’s Well on my own time, at my own pace, the way I wrote Communion of Dreams and co-authored Her Final Year?

Writing such an explanation — writing anything, really — is the perfect way for me to clarify my thoughts, to push past vague thinking and distill my understanding. You’ll see the finished product in a few days, but this passage from a blog post a month ago is a pretty good insight:

I recently turned 54. And I have accomplished a number of things of which I am justly proud. I have friends and family I love. I have a wonderful wife. I have written books and articles which have brought joy, knowledge, and solace to others. I have helped to preserve history in the form of books & documents. I have created art, sold art, made my little corner of the world a slightly better place. I’ve even helped expand the pool of ballistics knowledge a bit. Frankly, I’ve lived longer and accomplished more than I ever really expected to.

But I have more yet to do. Time to get on with it.

 

* * * * * * *

My wife answered the phone. I could tell just from her facial expression that it was bad news.

“Oh, no!” she said. “What happened?”

She listened for a moment, then got up to go into her office. I heard her talking some more. When she came back I looked at her quizzically.

“Tanna had some kind of accident. John was calling to see if I had any ’emergency contact’ info from the Directory he could pass along to the hospital.”

A couple years ago, my wife and I put together this Directory for our neighborhood association. We’d included this option for people to list if they wanted. Tanna was one of our nearby neighbors, a nice semi-retired woman who we see almost daily on our walks.

I looked at her. “Anything?”

“Yeah, I told him what we had.”

“So, what happened?”

“She evidently had a stroke while out walking her dog. Just collapsed. John and a couple of other neighbors saw her go down, went to check on her, called an ambulance.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah.” My wife looked at me. “She’s only a couple years older than you are.”

 

Jim Downey

*Yes, of course.

 



Back from Z’ha’dum.*

I mentioned the other day that my trip to Italy had kicked loose some writing blocks I had been struggling with, and that it had given me ideas for additional stories and novels. It did. It also made me think hard about some decisions I needed to make. Not just about writing. Also about how I spend my life.

Simply put, I have several things I still want to accomplish before I die. Things which I won’t accomplish if I keep putting them off, putting time and energy into things which really don’t matter. Like arguments. Like writing fluff which other people could write, just in order to earn a little money. My time — my life — is more valuable than that.

I think that it was the experience of seeing so many incredible accomplishments from Classical Antiquity still around some 2,000 years later which made an impact on me.

Now, I have no illusions that anything I do will last that long. Nor am I going to give up ‘living in the moment’ and trying to enjoy my life and those I share it with. But I am going to reshuffle my priorities in some very concrete ways.

One of these will be much less time dinking-around in social media. Oh, I will still participate to some extent, still maintain connections with my friends and fans. But I am going to be less self-indulgent in that regard.

Another change in priority will mean writing fewer reviews and articles. That means a loss of income which has made a difference in recent years, and I have to find a way to replace that. After all, I still have to live. The result of this will be a Kickstarter campaign which will be formulated and announced in coming weeks — plenty of people have said that they are looking forward to seeing what my next novel is, and this is one way for them to help make that a reality sooner rather than later, a chance for them to put their money where their mouth is.

(And speaking of Kickstarter campaigns, some friends of mine just launched one to expand their artistic repertoire which I highly recommend — you can find it here: Ancient Metalsmithing Made Modern, or Perfecting Pressblech )

I recently turned 54. And I have accomplished a number of things of which I am justly proud. I have friends and family I love. I have a wonderful wife. I have written books and articles which have brought joy, knowledge, and solace to others. I have helped to preserve history in the form of books & documents. I have created art, sold art, made my little corner of the world a slightly better place. I’ve even helped expand the pool of ballistics knowledge a bit. Frankly, I’ve lived longer and accomplished more than I ever really expected to.

But I have more yet to do. Time to get on with it.

Jim Downey

*Yes, a Babylon 5 reference. In this case specifically to the episode “Conflicts of Interest” in which Sheridan makes the following statement:

I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking, Zack. There are several hundred unpleasant things I’ve been avoiding doing since I got back from Z’ha’dum. Now with Delenn gone I don’t have any excuses. I have to start taking care of them.”

Appropriately enough, one of the places I got to visit while in Italy was Lake Avernus — which the Romans considered the entrance to Hades. Yeah, I’ve been to Hell and back. It’s given me a new perspective.



Encouragement.

I got a note from a friend earlier this week. She had just started reading Communion of Dreams, and was really impressed with it, and took the time to let me know. I thanked her for telling me.

And I was thankful — getting feedback from people like that is very affirming. Every author, every artist, likes it when their work is well received.

But I was also a bit bemused.

Why?

Well, because she seemed so *surprised*.

I can’t tell you how often this happens. You wouldn’t believe me. But it’s true. People who know me — friends, family — seem to be completely caught off guard by the fact that I’ve written a book which is actually quite good.

* * * * * * *

One of my relatives is pretty “old school” in the sense that he thinks that he should be parsimonious with praise. When I told him that I was going to grad school in order to study writing and literature, he said something along the lines of “what, weren’t you paying attention in college?”

When told that I was involved in the Ballistics By The Inch project, his reaction was that it was a waste of time, because “everyone knows the answer, it’s just 25-50 feet per second.”

I haven’t talked to him in years. I would bet that he considered the care-giving “woman’s work.” No idea what he would’ve made of the subsequent memoir. And Communion of Dreams?

Who knows.

* * * * * * *

A friend of mine used to always say: “It ain’t bragging if you can actually do it.”

* * * * * * *

There’s a new review up. Here it is:

As an avid reader, I go through many books quickly. I’ve read so much sci-fi stuff over the years, I have forgotten most or all of it. This book, however, is so wonderful and complex that I am certain it will stay with me. It brings in “hard” sci-fi in the Arthur C. Clarke tradition, marries it to cultural anthropology, sociology, psychology and all the other things I love. I was lucky to get this one for free for the Kindle during a promotion. However, it is well worth obtaining at full price. Downey has a flair for story telling and a firm grasp on even the deepest, most esoteric science and theoretical underpinnings. “Communion of Dreams” has been a joy to read. Highly recommended.

* * * * * * *

I got a note from a friend earlier this week. She had just started reading Communion of Dreams, and was really impressed with it, and took the time to let me know. I thanked her for telling me.

And I was thankful — getting feedback from people like that is very affirming. Every author, every artist, likes it when their work is well received.

But I was also a bit bemused.

Why?

Well, because she seemed so *surprised*.

I can’t tell you how often this happens. You wouldn’t believe me. But it’s true. People who know me — friends, family — seem to be completely caught off guard by the fact that I’ve written a book which is actually quite good.

This isn’t just about me. To some extent we all experience this. Hell, we all do this. A friend or a relative tells us that they’re writing a book, or a play, or a movie. Or that they are creating a work of art. Or that they are going back to school. Or that they are trying to lose weight. Or whatever. If we’re decent sorts of people, we make encouraging noises.

But when was the last time you actually considered engaging with that person? Actually *encouraging* them? I’m not talking about some bullshit “work hard, and anything is possible” line. I’m talking about asking about their project, their goal, their plans to bring it into reality?

I’m old enough, crusty enough, that I have pushed on to do things even in spite of lack of encouragement. Maybe that’s just because I’m a self-centered bastard who cares more about meeting my own goals than meeting the goals of others.

But think about how much better a world it could be if we really listened to one another’s dreams & plans, shared our enthusiasm, and our encouragement.

Jim Downey



Blimey.
June 26, 2012, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Ballistics, Guns, Humor, RKBA, Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Cross posted from the BBTI blog, just to give you an idea of what my day has been like.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blimey. Just got the following email:

Someone directed me to this page from your site: http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/357mag.html

Now, I appreciate what you are doing, but how you are presenting it is not very helpful.

What a useless page that is. Hey, look, columns of unlabeled numbers! How exciting!

Is that velocity? Muzzle Energy? Momentum? Power factor? Drop over distance? What are the units?

It’s labeled at the top as “.357 Mag Results”. Why not “.357 Mag Muzzle Energy in ft-lbs”?

My response? This: “Sorry to disappoint you. We’ll be happy to completely refund your money.”

The guy wrote back, protesting that he meant it as “constructive criticism.” And then went on to protest that he *still* didn’t know what the data represented (in spite of the fact that it is listed on the Y-axis of every ammo graph and indicated elsewhere on the site).

Sigh. I wrote back the following:

From the homepage of the site, and also referred to in multiple locations elsewhere on the site: “Since we first launched BBTI three years ago, it has become a primary reference tool for firearms enthusiasts of all stripes and from around the globe. Our initial research data covered the relationship between barrel length and velocity for some 13 common handgun calibers/cartridges.”

But you’re absolutely correct, we didn’t spell out that the numbers were velocity in feet-per-second (the standard velocity measurement in the US). We’ll correct that to make it more explicit. The funny thing is that you are the very first person in 3.5 years to not understand that this was what was indicated. Probably because you came at it from someone else’s link direct to that one results page. At least that’s the most charitable conclusion I can come to.

And that, dear friends is why now each caliber/cartridge page now says .22 Results in fps. (or whatever the caliber/cartridge is). Never let it be said that we won’t go the e x t r a inch for the dimwitted and deliberately dense.

People really will always find something to bitch about, won’t they? Even if it is free & unencumbered research data that they can’t get elsewhere.

Blimey.

Jim Downey