February 21st, 2013


[links] Link salad tries to catch a falling star

2012 Nebula Awards Nominees Announced — Look, it's me! Whee!

How To Use Your World — An analysis of world building using my novel Mainspring as a negative example. Including some rather personal snark. Heh.

Fall or Fly? — On writing and day jobs. (Via Marta Murvosh.)

Borrowing E-Books — Andrew Wheeler on Amazon's latest abusive-to-authors business idea.

The Kickstarter for the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon (Portland, OR) — Go check it out!

A Digital Shift on Health Data Swells Profits in an Industry — Maybe in the New York Times, but not in real life. My current second opinion effort requires over three hundred pages of printouts, which must be faxed, because electronic records transfer doesn't meet patient privacy requirements.

Can Boosting Immunity Make You Smarter?The body's defense cells engage the brain in an intricate dialogue that may help raise IQ. (Thanks to Harald Striepe.)

The Brain is Not ComputableA leading neuroscientist says Kurzweil’s Singularity isn’t going to happen. Instead, humans will assimilate machines. Hmm. Emergent mind-body dualism? And no more Rapture of the Nerds? I am disappointed.

Can You Feel Me Now? The Sensational Rise of Haptic Interfaces — Reverse electrovibration? (Via Daily Idioms, Annotated.)

A DIY Bioprinter Is BornMembers of the biohacker movement have created an inexpensive device to print cells. Will they print a leaf next?

Resources Between the Stars — Mmm. Steppenwolf planets.

Can Humans Do Better Than Dinosaurs When it Comes to Incoming Space Objects? — At the moment, no.

Bird-friendly Farms Catching On in CaliforniaMigratory birds find refuge on farms as part of conservation plan. When I lived in Texas, we called that a Chicken Ranch.

Well Now I’m Depressed — A robot designed to depress mice?

Witness: "I Bite Him. Bad Man. He Tasty." — Hahah.

Raising the stakes on life’s big choicesUsing a coin-flipping website, an experiment aims to investigate how people make the most important decisions.

Subvert the Script — I've been on both ends of this social script jumping the proverbial shark.

Bark Up or Down? Firewood Splits Norwegians — I really don't know what to say to this. (Thanks to David Goldman.)

Exposé of Chinese Data Thieves Reveals Sloppy TacticsA report on the Chinese group that breached the computers of U.S. companies reveals that they took few precautions against detection.

The Lady and the Library Loafr: Gender and Public Space in Victorian AmericaFor Folsom and other Victorians, female readers not only disrupted library order but also threatened to rend the very social fabric of respectable Boston. (Thanks to Marta Murvosh.)

Family, Race, Religion: The U.S. is Becoming More Diverse — This is real America, not Sarah Palin's crew of angry whites.

Governors, stop bashing liberal arts — It has the word "liberal" in it, so it must be evil. Because everybody knows liberals are responsible for such horrors as paid vacation, child labor laws, drinkable water and air, a safe food supply, free public education and other vile socialist chains that entangle American job creators.

The story of 'Reagan's Childhood Home': A case studyBen Dimiero explained this morning, "While easily dismissed, the story serves as an illustrative example of the way the conservative echo chamber can twist facts and turn baseless speculation into their controversy du jour." Your Republican party and its top priority: manufacturing more angry white men. Also, conservative commentator Daniel Larison on this same issue. (Via Slacktivist Fred Clark.)

PowerPoint Presentation Shows Boehner Selling The Sequester To His Members In 2011Although he now blames President Obama for the draconian spending cuts set to take effect March 1, just days before it passed House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) characterized the so-called sequester to Republicans as a way to hold the president accountable. Typical conservative: when your ideas and reality collide, lie, lie, lie. Millions of FOX News viewers will nod along and be angry at our Kenyan Socialist muslim president.

The Emancipation of Barack ObamaWhy the reelection of the first black president matters even more than his election.

QotD?: Ever seen a Nebula?

Writing time yesterday: 1.0 hour (0.75 hours on a new story, to 2,400 words, and 0.25 hours working on my collaboration with [info]the_child)
Hours slept: 6.75 hours (solid)
Body movement: 0.5 hours (stationary bike)
Weight: 232.2
Number of FEMA troops on my block covering up high crimes and misdemeanors in Benghazi: 0
Currently reading: Mort by Terry Pratchett


[cancer] The high cost of disability and dying

I've been working through a lot of details with my employer about late life and terminal issues. As I (most likely) get increasingly sick, at some point, I may go back on Short Term Disability (STD) for a while. (This is what I did for last month's surgery.) Somewhere in my terminal stages, I'll go on Long Term Disability (LTD).

On STD, I am still an employee. My benefits still apply, most specifically health insurance. My income is reduced by a third, but I believe that reduced income is paid pre-tax, so it's not quite as painful as it could be. This is a benefit managed by a third party provider, but my understanding is that it is funded by my employer.

On LTD, I am no longer an employee. Instead I am living on an insurance benefit provided by a third party insurance company through my employer, the premiums for which I pay as pre-tax dollars. Because I am no longer an employee on LTD, my insurance lapses unless I elect to carry it through COBRA.

To belabor the obvious, if I go on LTD because I have terminal cancer, letting insurance lapse would be about the most bone-headed move I could possibly make. Yesterday I found out the COBRA costs for coverage for me, [info]the_child and her mother. $1,800 for the health coverage alone, plus a small bit more for the dental.

That's huge rise in monthly expenses at a time when my income will have been substantially reduced. On the same LTD plan which reduce my paid benefit by the amount I might collect from any other LTD plan, such as the private plan I've paid into for the past thirteen years.

Think about that for a minute.

Our system of disability and late life care is profoundly cruel, punitive, inhumane and illogical. The whole point of putting the LTD benefit at only a percentage of my salary is that sick people are somehow assumed to need less money. At the same time, I'll be putting out $1,800 per month for health insurance (about four times more than my employee-paid contribution currently coming out of my paycheck) and hundreds more per month for co-pays and out of pockets.

What never-been-sick idiot thought this up?

This system puts me and my family under intense financial stress at a time when we can least afford either the direct costs or the associated emotional strains.

This is insane. Is this how you want the end of your life to go? Unraveling financially no matter how hard you've worked, how good a job you've done?

Tell me again how we have the best healthcare system in the world? It couldn't be better designed to drive a dying person into bankruptcy and premature death if that had been the primary objective.

This is not how a just, humane and moral society should treat its sickest members.


[awards] Some more thoughts on my Nebula nomination

This past Monday, I learned that my novella "The Stars Do Not Lie" (Asimov's, 10/11, 2012) has been nominated for a Nebula. Yesterday, the Nebula ballot became official and public. My deep and abiding sense of squee continues unabated.

This is important to me for several reasons beyond the very obvious.

One, I initially drafted this story in the throes of chemotherapy back in 2010. I did the rewrite after I finished chemo. So it's definite "fuck you" to cancer to have this story do well.

Two, it has done well. The novella ran in Asimov's, for Pete's sake. It has been picked up in several different Year's Best volumes. There's an audio version coming out. It's on the Locus Recommended Reading List. People have really liked it. Asimov's will shortly be making the novella available on their Web site for Nebula voter consideration, which will conveniently also make it widely available for potential Hugo nomination consideration as well.

Three, at this point in the arc of my struggle with cancer, this is likely the last year I'll be able to attend awards ceremonies in any capacity. It's also quite possibly the last year I'll get much writing done of any kind. Health permitting, I will be going to the Nebula Awards Weekend in San Jose. Win, lose or draw, it will be fun to spend a little more time as part of the glorious and entertaining pageant we can sometimes make of our field.

At the beginning and at the end, it's all about the writing. But some of the stuff in the middle can be pretty cool.