Benjamin Benneker was not a space marine but that’s probably only because he never got a chance to work with NASA. One of the black men held up to show various small minded bigots like Jefferson that blacks were intellectual equals to the white slave owning, power holders. Among his other accomplishments was hand carving a wooden replica of a pocket watch that kept accurate time, and being a technical assistant on the first federal survey of the land that would become our nations capital. He wrote 28 editions of an almanac that was well regarded even in comparison to Ben Franklin’s, and he was almost an entirely self taught mathematician and astronomer.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in the last two or three years. If you’re looking for a larger than life figure to base a character on, Dr. Howard is the man. If you want to read about civil rights figures beyond Malcolm X, or Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Dr. Howard is still the man. It starts with some history of the area he was born and raised in, and follows his life closely. Beito and Beito do a job worthy of all the superlatives you can apply in bringing Howard to life.

One particularly interesting part is how the governor of his home state responds to the Knight Riders.

Black Maverick: T. R. M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic PowerBlack Maverick: T. R. M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power by David T. Beito

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book on an under-discussed, vibrant man who was critical to the civil rights era. He came before Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, or Bobby Seale. He mentored Rosa Parks and Medgar Evers and was the single best asset to the family of  Emmett Till, and the prosecutors who went up against the White Citizens Councils and was an active part of the movement despite having a career as a surgeon and some expensive habits.

Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard was:
A surgeon
a caring father
a big game hunter
a mentor
a mediocre husband
an activist
atop the KKK’s most hated list.
A real American.

View all my reviews

News! Short Sale and Return to A Universe

Posted: 14th January 2013 by onyxhawke in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

The amazing Marshall Ryan Maresca will be part of a stellar cast in the upcoming Rayguns Over Texas which you’ll be able to put your hands on at LoneStarCon 3 aka Worldcon 2013.

Silent Dragon by Irene Radford from DAW books Feb 5 2013 release

 

A little bit sooner than that, in February in fact,  is the release of the fabulous Irene Radford’s Silent Dragon her return to the universe that gave us Glass Dragon and Loneliest Magician after a long hiatus. She’ll also be a bit busy this August.

 

The boffins at Amazon have pulled together six new web series they want folks to rate.

Your cat could make your baby blind.

Chromosome segregation is something we can all embrace, especially since cancer cases have a 90% prevalence when it breaks down.

There may just be a habitable planet orbiting Tau Ceti. If there is, is that are first extra-solar stop?

Is is time to give your blog a facelift? These could work.

And the 25 best places to work are?

Suitjamas – RedFerret

The nice man above is dressed in pajamas. Why someone decided people need a pjs that look like a business suit is anyones guess.

Want a solar powered charger for your next camping trip?

Wanna write letters like a pro? There’s a guide for that.

Color speaks volumes, and everyone has a method for ordering them.

10 Writing Myths, via @ChuckSambuchino

Entrepreneurial lady carves out a place to sit in Afghanistan.

 

Brain Fodder: Good News Addendum

Posted: 17th December 2012 by onyxhawke in Brain Fodder

For some reason this didn’t show up in the last post. Work safe.

Given the recent nonsense, I’m going to start this collection off with something that should make you smile and is entirely work safe:

And football being the only sport worth watching that’s actually being played right now (Thank Jeremy Jacobs and Gary Bettman!!)

The DC character I think should be next up for a major movie or tv series get’s talked up:

Nightwing a DC comic image via Comicvine

Nightwing

In news that will rock the souls of NHL fans to their very fundament, the players are better prepared than the owners.

They say the only thing worse than no security is bad security. Guess which we have?

Apple Maps headlines a list of turkeys for 2012 over at CNET.

Continuing the list trend, some of the best psychology and philosophy books of 2012.

Not to mention NPR’s top 1o Jazz albums of 2012.

A quick way to add function to your website.

If you want to set a story in Boston, even in part, you need to know something about the T, the lines, the stops, and where they are and were. This is a great place to start.

8 mythological critters, some of which you may not have met before.

Genetics, interbreeding, and the fossil record can and can’t tell us about our own past.

 

Mental Health

Posted: 14th December 2012 by onyxhawke in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

One of the, if not the biggest problems with our society (Western society as a whole) is that it has become unnaturally dichotomous. There is good. There is evil. There is no other category. There is sane. There is crazy. Good = Sane. Evil = Crazy. While I certainly despise gray goo in literature, in real life it is the rule not the exception. The problem is the definitions of “good” and “sane” are in just about all cases “behaving as I would behave”. Evil and crazy are any and all things outside that first definition. As we’ve seen with Mike Huckabee  you need to be careful who you let define your good.

The problem with the dichotomy is that the spectrum of good/evil is far wider, and weirder. More importantly, the impact of pressure to change on people at different points on the compass will result in different results.  Tell someone who’s an absolute omega follower that they need to do what you tell them, and they probably will, say it to a beta that believes they are your equal or better and they might just challenge you for authority on the spot, or they might watch you waiting for you to show some sort of weakness. If you are an alpha type and you give the same order to another alpha, they might do what you asked, you might have a power struggle, they might pass it on to an underling, or they could completely ignore you. All of those behaviors are normal for their type.

The worst problems arise when we try and shape people beyond their functional type. Someone who is easily frightened, highly unathletic, compassionate almost to a fault, and lacks even the assertiveness to defend themselves is not an ideal police officer or soldier. Pushing them into a role like that will result in some form of dysfunction. At the other end of the extreme someone with a reasonable amount of athleticism, a handful more paranoia than average, and a willingness to be violent, is not going to make the best barrista, personal assistant, or janitor. Pushing them into a role like that will result in some form of dysfunction.

Dysfunction for the purposes of this post is “that which directly harms the individual or makes them detrimental to society”, which does not include things others just find distasteful. So playing video games six hours a day is functional; smoking crack, rape, assault, or drinking enough alcohol to interfere with their other activities would be dysfunctional.

So if we take each of the examples above, and from childhood push them in direction that will maximize what those two individuals are as opposed to what sociologists, school teachers, their parents, or whoever thinks they should be both are capable of contributing to a healthy society. A soldier without a little bit of paranoia is probably gonna die in a hurry and get others killed. A personal assistant who can empathize with their boss is more effective, and almost certainly makes their boss better in turn.

Differential function is a fact. Period. Gwen Stefani, Madonna and Diana Ross might have been pushed into being accountants and likely no one would ever have heard their voices. Given all the time each of the three has spent around music and doing other creative acts, how functional would they have been in a job that didn’t allow them that?

That differential functioning shows in all sorts of ways. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? If you like working with people do you do better with children or adults? Whatever it is, for you, and those you influence, tell yourself and those around you; go towards your talents and your own psychoemotional construction.

The most broken people in the world, including the one who wiped out his family and a class full of children are what they are before they pick up any tool. The ability to be “evil” is one that has existed since the first human walked the earth. Ill acts can be committed with teeth and nails, or 13th century technology.

Goodreads: Diving In

Posted: 8th December 2012 by onyxhawke in Social Media
Tags: , , , , ,

So, recently I decided to give into Goodreads. I’ve had an account for a year or two, I just never used it much. The basic daily navigation tools are ok, but for stuff like adding reviews, or finding out you have to rate or review 20 books before you get recommendations  you have to dig. This may or may not have been explained when I signed up, but well, I no longer remember.  Those following me on twitter @Onyxhawke will note I reviewed a bunch of books in the last 24 hours or so to get to 20.

When I first get their recommendations top it looked like this:

Goodreads

Top of the page (minus the navigation bar)

Scrolling down they put fantasy next:

the fantasy pics

And at the bottom:

last row of rec page

I decided to click on the fantasy category which looks like this:

The top of the Fantasy rec page.
Nine rows total

A quick trip through the 45 recommendations showed me a couple interesting things:

  • No one I’d reviewed showed up.
  • 16 of the authors were people I’d read something by.
  • most of actually was fantasy despite the first screen showing a space opera.
  • No real leaning towards an particular publisher, decade, or subgenre.
  • Many of the books were a decade or two old, and most seemed to be the start of a series not a middle book.

More to come, I’ll also be taking a look at two other networks in the near future Diaspora and Socl.

Launch! Steam Mole

Posted: 2nd December 2012 by onyxhawke in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

So like many others, you’ve read Cuttlefish by now. The long awaited sequel launches NOW. NOW!! NOW!!! Steam Mole takes our intreped adventurers a little further on their journey.  Share the love with the readers you love this holiday season.

 

2012-11-24So you need to chart the heavenly vista for your opus magnus? Not a new concern. Try this.

A little remind that not all things are improved with quantity.

Political Parties http://www.reagencydesign.com/products/241597-political-party-monsters-preorder-s-xl

What do you mean you need to know where the stars are before you can draw them? Blasphemous thought!

If you haven’t heard of Kelvin Doe, shame shame! He’s one of those kids who does some damn impressive stuff.

Everyone has pretty distinct handwriting, do any of your characters write in one of these fonts? Do you ever pick a font for your characters?

This planet is so big its star is clearly overcompensating.

The solar system has clearly been lying about its age. This is unconscionable, and it needs to be punished.

In birds we think of imprinting as an all or nothing occurrence, that doesn’t appear to be the case in wallabys.

Know someone for whom time is a relative concept? Maybe, they are a living example of what the BaBar team has been studying?

When we age, we don’t just see differently, we read differently.

One of the most fascinating things about Homo sapiens is our adaptability. Think of the athlete who trains year round, the neurosurgeon who makes cuts using a robot and a laser that are minute, the statistician who carries a hundred 20 character or more formulas n their head, and person who speaks twelve languages are all not so different from you. Hell, you might be one of those, or something else amazing,

Differing abilities aren’t the only way we adapt. The level and type of risk we face, and how we do it is another type of adaptation. When a danger is so common you can’t ignore it, you either adapt to it, escape it, or die. Californians have earthquakes. In warzones, like Israel the adaptations, are something else:

 

So, what do the characters, villages,cities, mercenary companies, princes and shoe polishers, backers, barons, and brewers have to adapt to?

Twitter For The Not So Chatty

Posted: 19th November 2012 by onyxhawke in Social Media
Tags: , , , ,

A couple days ago Chris posted about social media. Specifically, he asked about how to generate conversations, and well, stick to something that doesn’t come naturally to him. Any form of social interaction that doesn’t come naturally to you is uncomfortable.

A couple things to remember:

  • No matter what ridiculous or insane thing you say, someone will top you, sooner rather than later.
  • Social media is incredibly fluid, getting to saturation of whatever outlet you choose, is pretty hard, just get aim for the people following you enjoying it.
  • Unless you’re on 24/7 not everyone is going to see anything or everything you tweet.

So how do you get in the habit of Tweeting, and keep it?

  1. Make it interesting for yourself: Follow people and companies you find interesting.
  2. Be candid about your opinions: If you see a movie and think it has a spectacular talent for applying oral suction to male primate organs, say so.
  3. Check the “Trending Topics”. This is a great feature, you can look at worldwide trends, you can look at national trends city trends or even trends based on what you tweet.
  4. Take part in memes. Some of them are absolutely hilarious to watch and take part in. #ReplaceMovieTitleWithBacon or something similar can in fact convince people to follow you.
  5. Pick a time to Tweet and read your timeline at least twice a day. It doesn’t have to be longer than five minutes either time. You can also do it during breaks while writing or editing. Write for an hour, Tweet for 10 minutes while you take a walk.
  6. Unfollow people who annoy you and block the noxious.
  7. And to paraphrase Janet Jackson: Relax, its just Twitter.
  8. Find a good app for your smartphone, tablet or computer that fits your needs.
  9. Talk about stuff other than your work.
  10. Unfollow people who annoy you and block the noxious.
  11. Put your twitter handle out where people can find it, people who like you will follow you, sometimes they will even respond or say something to you.
  12. You can post your tweets to Facebook, with some apps automatically, some have a toggle so not all will end up on your timeline.
  13. When you go places you don’t mind sharing about, share, I’ve done contests over twitter while traveling.
  14. Don’t give up, traction takes time.

 

Silent Dragon Cover

Posted: 17th November 2012 by onyxhawke in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

The amazing Irene Radford has a new book due out February fifth. I’m sure most of you have already preordered it from your purveyor of treeware already. If not, feast thy eyes, and wander on to your favorite bookstore:

 

Silent Dragon by Irene Radford from DAW books Feb 5 2013 release

 

For new fans, this is a great place to start exploring this universe. For fans who have loved Jaylor and his friends since Glass Dragon, they’re still around but  have taken a backseat to their children.

 

+++

I was asked to insert a link to a survey on civil rights leaders by a friend who’s a student. It’s entirely anonymous, but if you’ve taken it already please skip it. It’s only five question. And it will help out a great deal.

A woman with two uteri, gave birth not long ago to two babies, one developed in each uterus. Yes, this is rare.

A space saving, water craft you can put in your closet and still have room for shoes. It’s not quite George Jetson’s foldup car, but a kayak that compacts neatly is still pretty cool.

Thistle Down

By Irene Radford

Your three kids are beastly? You poor dear, I bet they don’t quite have the growl of the rare sumatran tiger.

Sure, some people might think a gator in the server cooling pond is a manifestation of the law of unintended consequences, but personally I think it was all part of a Google marketing plan.

Marriage is a subject that has so many views it is almost a meaningless word. Yet, the “m” word is a topic that will get people to open up and express themselves in a way few things can. Impact Lab is talking about the changing face of marriage. Specifically asking if men look at it different these days.

So, what do we think is causing Jupiter’s spots? Planetary chickenpox? Sympathy pollution blight?

Jupiter's Three Spots

 

One of the big mysteries of the world is how with so much genetic similarity there is across the animal kingdom at large, and within primates in particular, how humans ended up so different from their closes kin. The differences appear to start with gene expression.

And the father of flying fish appears to have been found, Jerry Spring is apparently willing to have him meet his children on his show…

Hours Saved

Posted: 12th November 2012 by onyxhawke in Uncategorized
Tags:

I attempt to improve my brain on a regular basis. Often the most interesting lessons I learn, are of the “Oh [Censored] now how do i fix it variety.” In today’s case a file I’d made quite a few changes too apparently lost those changes, or I forgot to save it when moving from a friends computer back to the mine.

Fortunately, SugarSync* saved my bacon, and hours, and hours of work. In one of my synced folders I clicked on the name of the file, and then “versions”. It saved the past five. When I clicked on that I got this pic:

https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=bkczz9j60pjn2&utm_source=website&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=referral&shareEvent=3141248

Each version you select and download has a time stamp appended to the end so you keep track of them while you recover your data. If I didn’t love Sugarsync already, this would be more than enough reason to.

*A referral link, yes I get  free space, no they don’t pay me. Enjoy.

 

 

Veterans Day

Posted: 12th November 2012 by onyxhawke in Uncategorized

To all who serve today, and everyone who has served in the past:

Thank you for being the rough men and women standing ready, day and night, in conditions frigid, squalid, sweltering, and more so that others may sleep peacefully.

There are several truths about American politics that make for interesting fiction fodder. The construction of the two parties of the day are one of them. Currently, both parties are in ebbs of extremism. Historically, this doesn’t continue for too long before the party that is more palatable in their extremity, usually thanks to the charisma of a leader or perceived leader of the party is surrounded by enough positive buzz that no possible successor within the party can keep the momentum. This is where the ebb begins, both in party influence, and both parties creeping (or sometimesleaping) back to the middle.

Parties that don’t get back close to center simply die. Lincoln was a loyal Whig until the party imploded,  Also historically, one issue parties do horribly. The Green Party for example has existed for decades and gone just about nowhere, the Libertarian Party has done very slightly better, but is viewed in a similar one trick pony light. Given how slowly the American center shifts, and the lifespan of successful politicians, it isn’t all that surprising that some fail to adapt.

The mythical mandate that has crept into the lexicon of presidential elections in the last 20 years is utterly laughable. Truman who had a 4.48% win, after being projected to lose, is as large as the 2012 win for Obama and the 2004 win for George W. Bush combined. The utterly forgettable Herbert Hoover had a popular vote margin of over 17%, and Warren G. Harding had a 26% popular vote margin in 1920, a margin we are unlikely to see again for a very long time.

If both of the parties we know today are to survive(unlikely), some historian 100+ years will probably look at the next decade as the time when one or both chopped off its offending wing. For the Republicans, the Westboro Right are so divorced from the increasingly secular nation that it is almost impossible for keep candidates like Huckabee integrated and remain viable on the national stage.  For the Democrats the Leningrad Left who see communist structures as the true desire of Americans everywhere, those folks need to go. Both unions, once a huge part of American political equation, and religious organizations have lost members and might in the last half century.

Some of this is changing demographics and economy. Family sizes are shrinking. When a candidate pushed the “family” button 100 times a month in 1910 or 1860, family sizes were much larger and having six or seven children to make the term resonate in a large number of voters was pretty common. Likewise, with the decline of manufacturing in America Unions are no longer the juggernauts they were, and even when they were there was a lot of disapproval from non-union workers that polarized issues common to members and non members.

From watching the trends of the US over the last 200+ years, the next decade and a half is the most likely time I’ve seen since the early Cold War for a new major, powerful national party to emerge. It could be a split in one of the two parties. It could be a few men and women from the two parties leaving to begin a new one, but if there are five members of congress in 2024 from a party that doesn’t exist today, I for one will not be surprised.

***

it should go without saying that if you can’t be civilized on my blog you might as well not post.

Somehow I failed to notice that it it was National Adoption month. Fortunately the nice folks at Adopt Us Kids tweeted a reminder:

It's National #Adoption Month! Visit the #NAM12 web site: http://t.co/h6mXvgGh Resources for families & professionals.#childwelfare
@AdoptUSKids
AdoptUSKids

Which prompted me to think: Why aren’t their any notable, positive adoption stories in science fiction and fantasy? I’ve read close to a five digit figure of science fiction and fantasy stories from shorts to novels in my life and am flat out stumped to finger even one adoption that worked out for everyone. In one of his latest, David Weber, who has adopted children of his own manages to jump up and down on the adoption = disaster plot button. Raymond Feist’s epic Magician has Pug get adopted into the Con Dion family (sorta), only to later have it cause issues within the family. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files features at least two adoptions, neither all that positive. The list goes on, and on, and on…

 

So who out there is going to spit in the eye of tradition and feature an adoption that works?

Those seeking information on adoption or foster care for themselves can do so via Adopt Us Kids, or by searching for their nearest state office. Many states have no fee adoption programs run by the state that may work better than the much more publicized private adoption agencies which often do great work, but can have high costs.

It is NANO and Movember Time!

Posted: 1st November 2012 by onyxhawke in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Most of my readers will know about NANO, National Novel Writing Month, a nearly world wide phenomenon.

Some of you who are like me hockey fans, have probably heard about Movember. For those who haven’t it is program to raise funds, and awareness for prostate cancer. You can take a look at the organization here.

Good luck to everyone involved in both, if you aren’t doing either, pick one, if you are doing one try the other.

 

Battlefield maps aren’t really difficult to come by, but getting one map with absolute brain breaking loads of the them from a source known for quality? Just about unheard of. Click here and drool.

One of the fascinating differences between introverts, like say Charles Darwin or Albert Einstein on one hand and extroverts such as Tony Blair and Nelson Mandela on the other is how they respond to stimulation. The short version is that introverts are drained of energy by time with people, and loud sounds or bright light, extroverts find this same stuff stimulating, and it ramps them up. The conversation in the comments here might lead you to believe extroverts are the minority, not true. E’s outnumber I’s about 3 to 1.

Snoring, the bane of many relationships has a cure! Well, maybe not a cure, but some well thought out devices to help stop it.

We all drop stuff on the ground now and then, not all of us manage to do it while in the air, nor on another planet.

One of the uglier bits of Americana get’s challenged, and some of the mythmakers explain their part.

One of those many, many differences between males, and females even early on is staked to the ground in a single line here. Boys need to know why. From my experience with kids, girls want to know who with and boys want to know what use. They aren’t the same thing, and can’t rarely be answered the same way.

Nothing of worth comes without effort and preparation. This means writing too. Dave Freer fields the question of research for his books.