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07-28-2013: Very Productive Day

Today was a very busy as well as a productive day. Over the past few days, I've managed to get some editing done on Peacekeeper. I got some more done today. I'm about a third of the way done with my second editing pass and I'm managing to find some things that really needed fixing. I'll be in training next week which means I'll have lots of time to edit in the morning as well as during breaks. My goal is to finish the first editing pass by the end of next week. I'll then do another editing pass but this time it will be quick as I'll only be looking for inconsistencies. Then it's to my wife for proofing and then a final editing pass to make sure it all works together.

I also set up a new computer for my wife. Her old machine was running into memory issues and slowing down to a crawl. The new machine, of course, came with Windows 8. I hate Windows 8 so I wiped the hard drive (had to because it uses a strange formatting, and installed Windows 7. This entails having to deactivate the new BIOS and activate the legacy BIOS. After 7 was installed I ran into some major issues like no internet and no USB ports. I solved this problem by going to the HP website and doing a search of my computer to determine who makes the network interface. I then went to their website, downloaded a driver installer, burned it to a DVD, put the DVD into the new system, and ran it. A few seconds later I was on the internet. From that point it was easy. I installed the 148 (first pass) updates, then another 38 updates. I downloaded a driver updater program and updated all the drivers which gave me the USB-3 ports back. Next, I installed Office 2003 and had to install another 56 updates after that. This morning I used the easy file transfer facility built into Windows 7 to move all the settings and files from the old machine to the new one. As soon as I have time I'll make some minor tweaks and then she'll have a new computer.

Now I've got to figure out what to do with her old one - maybe turn it into an Ubuntu box?

I've also been working on my fence project. Today I tore down the rest of the old fence, sanded the remaining poles, stained them, and started putting up pickets. There's only 5 sections left and I'll have that project completed by the end of the day tomorrow - provided I don't run out of wood. That will free up some time to finish my wife's computer, reorganize my computer room, complete a couple more outside projects, and (you thought I forgot, didn't you?) work on Peacekeeper. There's some other projects on hold like reorganizing how I store things on my computers and get things prepared for when I turn over the backups to CrashPlan.

That's it for today. Time to Skype with my friend in Minnesota and bug his wife about getting a cover for Peacekeeper.


07-21-2013 Launch Pad Day 7 & 8

We began the last day of class yesterday morning. I slept very little the night before and I was feeling a bit 'twitchy'. After lunch, I went back to the dorm and laid down for an hour. I don't think I slept but I felt better when I got back to class. Here is what the schedule looked like for our last day:

0730 – 0930: Breakfast at Turtle Rock with Chaz. Others showed up later.
1000 – 1100: (Mike Brotherton) Continue discussion of black holes.
1100 – 1200: (Mike Brotherton) Galaxies and Quasars.
1300 – 1430: (Mike Brotherton) Cosmology
1430 – 1545: (Mike Brotherton) Finish up on Science in Science Fiction
1545 – 1700: Post test, travel arrangement discussion

1900:             Party at Mike's house.

The party was very nice with many of Professor Brotherton's student's showing up. Mike has an amazing collection of dragons and dragon-related items and wandering around his basement is like taking a walk through a modernized dragon-lair. It's always sad having to say goodbye to a group of new friends but with the internet and its ability to keep people connected no matter where they are the sting is somewhat lessened. I have met another fantastic group of writers whom I hope to stay in touch with for many years to come.

I was up at 0515 this morning, well before my alarm went off. The crows were once again holding conference outside my window. As I post this final blog from Laramie, I am all packed up and ready to roll.

I did manage to nearly finish Peacekeeper yesterday. I had to go back and make a few more edits and tweaks to make things line up properly so the book is not 100% complete. It's close. Barring any unforseen disasters I should be able to finish it before arriving home. Then it's one more editing pass and off to my wife for her proofing.


07-19-2013: Launch Pad day 6

Well, tomorrow will be the last full day of Launch Pad. Here is what today's schedule looked like:

0700 – 0930: Breakfast at the Union with Chaz and Jamie.
1000 – 1100: (Mike Brotherton) Black holes.
1100 – 1215: (Mike Brotherton) The Structure of Galaxies.
1300 – 1400: (Andria Schwortz) Science ethics.
1400 – 1600: (Mike Brotherton) Interstellar travel.

1600 – 1700: (Rubin Gamboa) Amateur astronomy.

One of our classmates was unable to make it to class this morning due to altitude sickness. Apparently, two Launch Pads ago they had to take someone to the ER for this. But I guess Mike has an Oxygen concentrator at his house which is what the ER would do if you went there only they will happily charge you a lot of money for the service. The treatment worked and she was back in class shortly after lunch.

I checked on my flight and discovered that for some unknown reason I set it up for 10:00am in the morning! That would mean I would have to leave Laramie at around 6:00am. Since I rented a van the plan was to take a bunch of people back to the airport with me but having to leave at such an ungodly hour put almost everyone off. With Mike's party planned for Saturday night it would mean I would have to bow out of the party early and then get up at 5:00am. I called United and changed my flight - an expensive thing to do these days. I'll just chalk it up as a lesson learned. Now I don't have to leave the dorm until around 0800. Tomorrow we talk logistics and I'll find out who's riding with me.

The entire class (except one) decided to go out for dinner. About half of us went to a place called "Altitude". The steak and beer were both very good. Afterwards, we wandered into "the oldest bar in the State" as one patron called it. I was driving so I just looked around while the others (except one) had a few shots. It looked like a very old bar and there's a picture of it from the early 1900's hanging on the wall.

I am happy to report that I managed to write just over 1,500 words today. I'm working on the final chapter of Peacekeeper. If all goes well, it will be done before I get home. I should have time to work on it in the morning and then again at the airport and on the plane. Cross your fingers.


07-18-2013: Launch Pad Day 5

I slept late because we didn't get back from the WIRO telescope until quite late last night. Here was the schedule I followed today:

0700 – 0930: Breakfast at the Union with Chaz and Jamie.
1000 – 1300: Hike around Turtle rock (Vedauwoo).
1430 – 1600: (Mike Brotherton) Death of stars

1600 – 1700: (Daniel Dale) Dust in Space
1700 - 1800: Dinner
1830 - 2000: (Jamie Rubin) Impromptu EverNote lecture

I spent some time this morning buying my wife a few items from the university gift shop and then working on Peacekeeper. I've added another 600 or so words bringing the total up to just under 104,000 words. The final battle has been fought and all that's left to write are the clean-up chapters to bring everything to a neat conclusion.

The hike around Turtle Rock started off with a minor incident and ended with one as well. When we arrived, there wasn't enough room to park all three of our vehicles in the same parking lot. I drove my van to an upper lot and we walked down. The trail is covered with tiny little pebbles making it slippery and one of the people from my van (I will not embarrass that person with a name) slipped and banged her knee scraping it a bit but otherwise she was okay. She opted to remain at the parking lot while the rest of us started on the trail. The walk was about two hours long and we saw some amazing sites. Here's one with Mike Brotherton on the right and Christian Ready on the left:

We were almost back to the parking lot when another person from the group tripped over a branch and hit the ground - hard. I think his camera came in contact with his nose because he cut it pretty good. Luckily, we were only a few feet from a water faucet and he was able to stop the bleeding and clean the wound. He will have a reminder of the walk for some time to come. We had a boxed lunch at the parking area and then headed back to the classroom.

We then learned about how stars die from Mike and how dust is used to explore the universe by Daniel. Most of us were pretty tired but I believe we got a lot out of the lectures.

The lecture from Jamie was not part of the official Launch Pad courses. Jamie (Link to his going paperless website) is an EverNote ambassador (he doesn't get paid for that role by the way) and uses EverNote as a central part of his going paperless lifestyle. One incredibly wild trick - put a PDF image of a user's manual (such as your thermostat) in EverNote then generate a QR code of the URL to this note. Past the QR code inside the door of the thermostat. Now, if you need to reprogram it and you don't know how you simply scan the QR code with your phone and the manual appears on your mobile device. My brain is still humming with ideas on how to use this unique application.

07-18-2013: Launchpad day 4

Yesterday was such a full day at Launchpad that I had no time to blog. Here's what our schedule looked like:

0700 – 1000: Breakfast at the Union with Chaz and Jamie (Writers writing)
1000 – 1115: (Christian Ready) Binary star systems.
1115 – 1200: Lab – Searching for exo-planets using
1200 – 1300: Lunch.
1300 – 1430: (Chip Kobulnicky) Image processing lab.
1500 – 1700: (Christian Ready) Everything you always wanted to know about Stars.

2000 – 2400: WIRO (Wyoming InfraRed Observatory)

I was having no luck at all trying to find planets at the Planet Hunter website. I kept being presented with the same data over and over to classify. This happened on two separate computers! Our best guess was that it was because I was not logged in. Doug Dechow, however, spotted a very strong candidate for an exo-planet and when he reported it discovered he was the first to have seen it!

I am happy to report that I've been getting quite a bit of writing done in the mornings and Peacekeeper is now nearly complete. Hopes are to finish it before I leave here although that is a lofty goal. The novel now stands at over 102,000 words with a chapter or two remaining to be written.

The highlight of our day, of course, was the trip to WIRO. Unlike last year, we got to see them doing some actual science this time. The drive up was better this year as well because of the lack of rain which had washed out the road last year. When we arrived at the top of the mountain (10,000 feet I'm told) we could see a thunderstorm off in the distance. T-storms from a mountaintop are so cool! Everyone had a great time and the entire class departed around 2300 for the long ride back.


07-16-2013: Launchpad day 3

Here's how the day went at Launchpad for day 3:

0700 – 1000: Breakfast at the Union with Chaz and Jamie.
1000 – 1200: (Andria Schwortz) The electromagnetic spectrum.
1200 – 1300: Lunch at Washika.
1300 – 1500: (Andria Schwortz) Spectroscopy lab.
1500 – 1620: (Christian Ready) Motion, Energy & Gravity.
1620 – 1700: (Mike Brotherton) Science in Science Fiction
2030 – ????: Telescope time on top of the physical sciences building.

We actually ran out of time for Mike's lecture on Science in Science Fiction. He will continue it tomorrow. The spectroscopy lab was interesting although many of us had a difficult time getting the spectrometers to work properly. 

The highlight of the day was definitely the telescope activities at the top of the physical sciences building. This was an activity we did not experience at last year's Launchpad. The university has a 16" telescope which gave us a fantastic view of Saturn. You could clearly see the rings as well as three of the moons. Here's a pic Jeri Smith-Ready took of me looking through the eyepiece:


07-15-2013: Launchpad 13 Day 2

Today was another fun day at Launchpad. I woke up early and did some writing while having a few cups of tea. I then walked down to the Wyoming Student Union building with Chaz Brenchley and Jamie Rubin. We were early so we each set up our laptops and began writing. With only a short break for breakfast and an occasional conversation we sat and wrote mostly in silence. I managed to finish adding another 953 words to Peacekeeper before having to set it aside to attend class.

Class began at 0930. Here's the schedule of what happened during the day:

0930 – 1040: Introductions.
1040 – 1100: Astronomy pre-test.
1100 – 1200: (Mike Brotherton) Scale of the Cosmos
1200 – 1315: Lunch at the Washaki cafe. I sat with 4 others.
1315 – 1330: Tuition payment
1330 – 1530: (Andria Schwortz) Phases of the moon and seasons.

1545 – 1700: (Christian Ready) after break – Exploring the Solar System.

After the official classes we all went to see Pacific Rim showing in the theater that's a short walk from the dorm. Personally, I enjoyed the movie despite its technical flaws. Afterwards, we all hung around the lobby discussing where the movie had gone wrong. We then decided to wander down to O'Dwyers bar where the discussions continued. This was a great conclusion to another great day at Launchpad.


07-14-2013: Launchpad13

Today I arrived in Laramie for Launchpad 2013. I did manage to find the time to get some good writing done on Peacekeeper on the flight to Denver. As a returning Launchpad attendee, I thought it would be a nice gesture to help out and rent a van to drive some people there. Mike Brotherton, the creator of Launchpad, was appreciative. One of my scheduled riders was late arriving so we departed with a fill-in. The trip to Laramie was uneventful other than the fact that my Tom-Tom decided to take us on a scenic route. We checked in and then went out for dinner in the Cafe. Afterwards, Mike took us to the classroom so we would be able to find our way back there again in the morning. The first class begins at 0930.

This is another interesting group of distinguished writers. This particular group seems to be well attuned to each other and I've been spending the greater part of my time simply listening. When the conversation seems to slow down, all it takes is a simple question (one in which I'm interested in getting an answer) and they're all off talking again. The subject seems to shift at a rapid pace which is often the case with writers. This particular group includes many published authors who have also met and are friends with other well-known authors.

I plan on getting up early in the morning and working on Peacekeeper before class begins. I'll be checking out a couple of possible spots for obtaining a decent breakfast. I was sort of hoping to be able to return to the place I frequented last time I was here but the new classroom location places it too far away. I will most likely be having breakfast in the student union hall which is just across the plaza from the classroom building. The rules have changed a little this year and we will be having lunch and dinner in the cafe instead of in the classroom. Food and drink are not allowed in the classroom.

I will be doing daily blogs while in Laramie.


07-06-2013: Writing takes a back-seat

I know a few of you will be upset to hear this - work on Peacekeeper has stalled. There's actually several reasons for this. First and foremost is the ongoing fence rebuild. The fence surrounding my property is literally falling apart. Being a good neighbor, I've decided to replace it. This project started over a month ago with a delivery of wood. I've been spending most of my free time staining, cutting, and sanding the new wood. My dad has been here all this week helping me put the new fence up. Rain hasn't helped. Yesterday was taken up by saying goodbye to my daughter (she was visiting from Georgia) and digging a hole to sink a new pole to replace one that has rotted off. Needless to say, the fence project is a priority.

The other reason Peacekeeper has been stalled is that I ran into a problem. I asked some of my astronomy friends (professors) for help and so far they've come up empty. So, while working on the fence, I've been thinking about ways around the problem. I could push ahead and just finish but the story would not pass scrutiny and my science-savvy readers would have spotted anything that just didn't add up. The good news is that I have a very good solution that popped into my head the other day.

I should be able to finish the book in two weeks. I travel to Laramie Wyoming on July 14th for Launchpad-13. While there, I will have plenty of time to write. Since I'm a morning person, I'll be waking up nice and early and then walking to a cafe where I will have breakfast and do some writing. In the evening, after class, I'll be writing. My wife still has to do her proofing and she has promised to not only work on it as much as she can but she's decided to root out every bad spelling, word misuse, and all other mangled words that I tend to overlook. If all goes well, the book should be available in a couple months.

The sun is now coming up, the neighbors are waking up, and it's time to get back to work on the fence.