Welcome to Green Comet

These free novels, Creative Commons licensed Green Comet, and its sequels Parasite Puppeteers and The Francesians, tell an expansive story of love and adventure on an inhabited comet. To learn more about the trilogy, and for samples, visit the Welcome Page. To download the books, visit the downloads page.

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Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair

Credit: ShakataGaNai CC-BY-SA – tap for big

If you have been following this blog, then you know that I have posted several times about the right to repair movement, and the despicable behavior of some vendors who would rather you couldn’t. I wrote about how John Deere was abusing their customers, and how the farmers were pushing back. I wrote about how farmers were using ‘unauthorized’ software to work on their tractors. I wrote about how iFixit is leading the way in the fight for the right to repair. And about a small victory that means people can work on their own cars now. We’ve seen the problem: vendors who treat their customers like mere users of their products, with no ownership rights. And we’ve seen good-hearted people pushing back, to the point where some jurisdictions are developing legislation to give people the right to repair their own stuff. Now the pushback is going in the other direction. The manufacturers have hired lobbyists to try to convince the politicians to not enact the laws. They want to continue with the present system, where people buy something, it breaks, and they throw it away and buy something else. They don’t mind that people throw away so much stuff — Americans alone throw away over 400,000 cell phones per day — because it’s good for business to sell them more stuff to replace it. And, after all, they’re not responsible for anything besides their shareholders’ dividends. Their own convenient little sandbox, and everything outside of it is someone else’s responsibility. These are the paragons in our funny little world.

The battle lines were drawn at a hearing in New Hampshire last week for a proposed right to repair law, with supporters calling for economic justice for consumers and opponents warning of crime and injury should the law pass.

… the proposed legislation would stifle commerce, leave New Hampshire consumers vulnerable to cyber crime and even physical harm at the hands of clueless owners and inexperienced or unethical repair professionals.

The proposed legislation in New Hampshire would

… require original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that do business in New Hampshire to make the same documentation, parts and tools available to device owners and independent repair professionals as they make available to their licensed or “authorized” repair professionals.

and

… documentation, tools, and parts needed to reset product (software) locks or digital right management functions following maintenance and repair would also need to be made available to owners and independent repair professionals on “fair and reasonable terms.”

That’s all. If you want to do business in New Hampshire, then treat your customers right. But the lobbyists paint a different picture.

… repairs performed by the owners of lawn equipment, electronics and home appliances or independent repair professionals carry serious economic, safety and security risks.

They go on to outline the risks, painting a picture of economic decline, grievous bodily injury and death. I think you get the idea. For full details, I recommend following the link to the article at Security Ledger, as well as a supplementary article at the US Public Interest Research Group website.

via In Granite State: Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair | The Security Ledger

rjb

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People Who Know the Least Think They Know the Most

gmo

The Edmonton Journal has an article about an inverse correlation between how much a person knows and how much they think they know.

People often suffer from an ‘illusion of knowledge,’ write the authors of a new study that finds that people who hold the most extreme views about genetically modified foods know the least.

“The less people know,” the authors conclude, “the more opposed they are to the scientific consensus.”

The problem is similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect: The less competent a person is at something, the smarter they think they are.

“Extremists have this characteristic of being much worse than the other people at evaluating how much they know.”

The answer would seem to be education, but …

Sometimes it backfires, and people double down on their “counter-scientific consensus attitudes.”

You should see the comments.

Peter Lawless
A big whitewash not so much for science, but for the GMO’s! The thing here is that these “scientists ” and “experts” either get it totally wrong through genuine ignorance, or make it so by lying for corrupt reasons like being in the pay of big corporations.

Wayne Alan
Did you read the article?

Wendy Dann
This is a TERRIBLE INSULTING ARICLE. It began with a discussion about the GMO debate and then it went on insulted people about everything.

John Brookes
How is this insulting? It just says that people who don’t know anything think that they do.

The scientists are going to test their findings in other areas, such as vaccinations and homeopathy. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the results will be very similar to this study of attitudes toward genetically modified foods. Do you think I’m cynical?

via People with extreme anti-science views know the least, but think they know the most: study | Edmonton Journal

rjb

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Why Do They Say the Earth is Flat?

Public Domain – tap for large image


I think that most of the people who say the Earth is flat are trolling. Unlike T-Rex, I don’t think that all flat-earthers are trolling, just most of them. I think they do it to get noticed. I think they do it to set themselves apart, and to imply that the rest of us are common and boring by comparison. And I think they do it to get a reaction, like other trolls. You’ll be able to tell the trolls from the true believers by how many questions they ask. While true believers will also ask questions in their efforts to make you see the light, the trolls will use almost nothing but questions in their efforts to manipulate you. It’s the earnestness of the true believers that will settle it. Trolls never leave themselves that vulnerable.

Flat-earthers have a lot in common with conspiracy lovers. In fact, part of the flat earth philosophy includes the belief in a round earth conspiracy. Since science and exploration are responsible for much of the evidence against flat and for round, there has to be a conspiracy to hide the flatness of the truth. So that’s another reason why people do it. They are psychologically pre-disposed to believe in an occult truth obscured by a mainstream conspiracy.

Of course, there is also that minority of people who say it because someone told them it was true. The credulous few who will believe whatever they’re told by someone they look up to, and who will fiercely cling to that belief no matter what. Generally, this group is composed of people who aren’t able to think for themselves, and who wouldn’t think of questioning the truth of something they don’t understand.

So, there you have three of the reasons why people say they believe the Earth is flat. They’re trolling. They’re conspiracy lovers. They’re credulous. If you can think of any more reasons, please let me know in the comments.

Here’s a Scientific American article on the subject, to give you the conspiratorial establishment’s spin on the flat earth. And here’s a Youtube video of Bugs Bunny proving that the Earth is globular.

rjb

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Top 10 Posts of 2018

Credit Marjaree Mason Center – CC-BY-SA

Here is the list of the ten posts on Green Comet that got the most visits in 2018.


1. Spanking for Love

Once again Green Comet seems to be a gateway for people who want to learn about spanking their women. Humans are funny little things, aren’t they?


2. Bipedal – The Savanna Theory

Judging from the pattern of hits, I’m guessing that a lot of children find this post after getting a school assignment.


3. Home Page
This makes sense, since it’s the landing page for the site.


4. Ants in the Devil’s Garden

It’s a fascinating story, so I’m not surprised at the interest in it. It’s interesting to speculate about the search parameters that led here. There are some good comments, too.


5. Most Unpleasant Sounds

Once again, how do people end up here? What is the interest in unpleasant sounds?


6. Downloads

This is gratifying. Since the purpose of the Green Comet website is to provide a home on the internet for the Green Comet trilogy, I am pleased that so many people go to the downloads page. In fact, you should do that as soon as you finish reading this post. Download everything. It’s free.


7. Bipedal – The Aquatic Ape Theory

This one is probably linked to #2. They are closely related ideas.

Credit Craig Sunter – CC-BY


8. Cirrus Homogenitus

Everyone loves clouds, and this one is probably particularly interesting because it’s one of the rare new ones designated by the World Meteorological Organization in their International Cloud Atlas.

Photo credit – Ross Cooper


9. Altocumulus Lenticularis

More clouds, and these ones are popular for their striking appearance and their counter-intuitive behavior.


10. Altocumulus Castellanus

More clouds, and again very distinctive in their appearance.

So, that was 2018. I think I’m safe in predicting that the list for 2019 will be similar.

rjb

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Working Title – The Prime


After a nice long break, I’m back at it. I finished The Plainsrunner, my 2018 novel, did all the prep work, published it and completed recording the audiobook before Christmas. Then I took a few weeks off, ignoring the pathetic whimpering of my fountain pens as they stood unwanted in their cup on my desk. Now, at last, I’ve filled one of those pens and begun writing my 2019 novel, tentatively titled The Prime.

It felt good to sit on my exercise ball at my desk this morning, with the familiar weight of a pen in my hand. I was slightly concerned about this year’s goal of a thousand words per sitting. Last year I was able to do 750 words without any problems, but who knows where the limit might be? I needn’t have worried, as it turns out. I got a thousand words this morning, and it didn’t feel as if I was over-extending myself. It felt as if I should be able to reach that level on most mornings. The worst of it was the time it took. Writing for that long each morning is going to push back my other activities accordingly, so I’m going to have to get used to getting everything done that much later.

The Sun is shining here, with a mild temperature and gentle breezes. If I were one for taking omens, then I would be feeling pretty good about the coming year, and about the novel I’ll be writing during it. I’m not one for taking omens, as it happens, but I’m still feeling pretty good.

rjb

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Check Your Facts – Factcheck.org


Factcheck.org has been keeping tabs on prevaricators for 15 years. Concentrating on the United States, Factcheck.org is a party-agnostic watchdog on the words of those who would put themselves out ahead of the rest of us. It should be safe to assume that they should be at least as accountable as the rest of us, so Factcheck.org holds them up for our scrutiny. This year it celebrates its fifteenth anniversary.

Factcheck.org exposes the false statements of liberals and conservatives alike. If these falsehoods are taken by the media and turned into fake news, that is exposed on the Factcheck site, regardless of the politics of the perpetrator. Whether the source is credulous and naively repeating something they heard, or cynically propagating lies, or simply unable to stop themselves from saying that which they would like to be true, their words are held up to the actinic light of day.

Factcheck.org has been keeping track of this deluge of deception for fifteen years now, and they have compiled a collection of the most egregious. They’ve published a convenient list of whoppers for 2018. Not surprisingly, a certain politician once again tops the list.

I’ll just let you check out the whoppers for yourself.

rjb

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Misophonia

Petar Milošević CC-BY-SA – tap for original


Synesthesia of the Day — Misophonia

For the first time in a long time I don’t feel as if I’m up to my elbows in work. It seems like after I finish writing a novel is when I get really busy. It has to be prepared for publication, then it has to be published, and there’s a lot to that for someone who does it himself. Then there’s the recording, which took a month for The Plainsrunner, and preparing that for release. So I’ve been busy and it’s letting up, and now I find myself looking around for anything I’ve missed. Wracking my brain in case there was some little detail I’ve left out. I guess I’ve gotten used to being busy, and it’s taking a while to slow down. As I do slow down, though, I realize that I now have time for a blog post that isn’t about the book. Here’s one about synesthesia.

In a previous post — Most Unpleasant Sounds — we looked at Dr Sukhbinder Kumar of Newcastle University and a small study where he came up with a list of the ten most unpleasant sounds, as selected by volunteers. The list would seem reasonable to most normal people, although I’m sure most people could easily alter it, either with the sounds themselves or the order of their unpleasantness.

It turns out that Dr Kumar works with people for whom unpleasant sounds go far beyond any list that normal people might make. The list would be much longer and the reaction to the sounds would go beyond unpleasantness or discomfort. For the people suffering with misophonia, some sounds can get down to their primordial emotions, from uneasy fear to terror. Mere sounds can evoke a classic fight-or-flight response. Unless they can find a way to insulate themselves from the sounds, they could live their whole day in a state of extreme stress.

It’s easy to dismiss the complaints of people with misophonia. Why should I have to worry about every little sound I make just because somebody’s a little sensitive. Tiny little sounds that everyone makes unconsciously every day. The popping or smacking of lips. Sniffing. Even the way we breathe. And that’s just few from one small part of the body. There are a lot of triggers — largely things we could control if we tried — and we would have to be on our guard all day long to avoid bothering anyone with misophonia. Can’t they just suck it up and deal with it?

No, they can’t. With therapy they can learn how to deal with it better, but there’s no cure. Unlike other forms of synesthesia, which can be pleasant, or at least interesting, misophonia seems to be unrelentengly bad. Sufferers soon give up trying to get the rest of us to give them a break, and look for ways to live with it. Typically that means cutting themselves off from people. Working from home. Staying single. Since the bad sounds are largely made by people, who could avoid making them — that’s an important part of it, that it’s not just any sounds, but sounds that people make when they don’t have to — the most effective course is to avoid people.

Next time you hear someone drag their fingernails across a blackboard, and you recoil, your skin crawling, try to imagine if you also felt primeval fear, your thighs quivering in preparation for running away. Then try to imagine feeling that way if someone snapped their fingers or sucked their teeth. Misophonia — hatred of sound — might be the worst form of synesthesia.

Read this BBC article about Margot, and how she lives with misophonia.

rjb

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Plainsrunner Recording Complete

Cover photo Angela de Paula CC-BY-SA

The recording of The Plainsrunner is finished.  It comes to a total of about ten hours of listening.  Now I need to polish it up, which includes running it through a normalizer to to ensure continuity across all files, and adjusting the gain so the audio is at an acceptable volume.  Then comes the conversion to formats suitable for normal audio players, MP3 and OGG.  Not long after that I’ll be releasing it into the world.

rjb

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Help for Hobbyists


I’ve just learned of a website dedicated to hobbies — HobbyHelp. They describe themselves as, “a small team of enthusiasts, looking to share our knowledge and experience with anyone looking to start a new hobby.” Some of the most popular posts are, 10 Most Popular Hobbies in the World, 10 Hobbies That Look Great on Your Resume, and The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Astrophotography. But what brought me to the site was a message from Jenny, one of the bloggers at HobbyHelp. She had seen my post, NASA Image and Video Library, about NASA’s consolidation of its scattered resources into a single archive, and reached out to me with a link to a post of hers, The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Astronomy.

I think HobbyHelp is selling itself short by limiting its audience to beginners “looking to start a new hobby.” I think their site would be useful to people who are already involved in a hobby, too. People who are trying to expand their knowledge, or who are contemplating taking the next step in their experience. That is certainly true of Jenny’s post mentioned above. The depth of her research is plain to see. The care in the writing is obvious. While useful to someone taking their first steps in the hobby of astronomy, her piece would also be useful to people further along.

If you’re looking for a new hobby, visit the HobbyHelp website. If you’re interested in astronomy, visit Jenny’s post. Either way I think you’ll be rewarded for your effort.

rjb

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The Plainsrunner Chapters Have Been Removed

Cover photo Angela de Paula CC-BY-SA


The OliverOnline Book Club serialization of The Plainsrunner is now officially and irrevocably over. The files containing the chapters have been removed from this site, and the links to them on the OliverOnline site are now dead. Thank you to all who participated and I hope you were able to complete your set of chapters before they were destroyed.

Shameless plug: You can still get the complete set bound in a beautiful book, available for a reasonable price at Kobo Books along with all the other book stores listed in this post.

rjb

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