16 June 2010

All Signed Up for World Fantasy 2010

Well, from World Cup to World Fantasy: I've just signed up to attend this year's World Fantasy in Columbus, Ohio. It runs October 28-31, 2010 and I'm really looking forward to it! I attended WFC in Saratoga Spring, NY in November of 2007 right after my Writers of the Future win and had a great time. My only regret? Not having the guts to go talk to Moebius (too intimidated, and though he spoke English one of the times I wish I'd stuck it out with my French classes...) and that I didn't buy one of the prints he had for sale in the dealer's room. D'oh!

The best part of WFC this year? It really only cost my $15. I had $110 US in my PayPal account that I had forgotten about so it cost me almost nothing to register. The hotel will be a different matter, however...

My goal in attending WFC this year is to have the first draft of my novel complete by then, so as to better to schmooze with editors and agents. So there's no hiding and no shirking now. Just time to buckle down and get writing.

Speaking of which, I should get back to it...

See you in Ohio!

- S.

11 June 2010

Why I'm Cheering for North Korea in the World Cup

I make no secret of the fact that I believe soccer (or football, or footie, or whatever you want to call it) the most boring sport in the world...with the possible exception of NASCAR, but at least things can crash and catch on fire in NASCAR. So far as I know, Pele never exploded mid-field (and the 'beautiful game' is the lesser for it).

In any case, I do realize that this very strongly held opinion puts me in the vast minority of the global population, especially around World Cup time.

Here in Canada our national broadcaster, the CBC, has gone completely gonzo for all things World Cup (mostly, I think, because they also happen to be broadcasting most of the games here in Canada...) The CBC has even advocated picking a country--any country--to cheer for, just so you can join in on the madness.

So I'm picking North Korea.

Oh sure, it's not the popular choice and it would be easy to support some other more likable nation, particularly here in Toronto. I could pick Italy and head down to the bars on College St., or pick Greece and grab some souvlaki on the Danforth.

But I think supporting North Korea could be soooo much more interesting.

Now, I don't know how the bracket will ultimate work out (see my above comments about not giving a rat's ass about soccer) but here's what the writer, the storyteller, the dramatist in me wants to happen:

North Korea vs. South Korea for the World Cup.

Ehh? Pretty good right? Could you imagine what would happen? The entire world--even people like me who don't care--would come to a grinding halt and be glued to the TV to watch the outcome.

More than that, since the Korean War isn't officially over, I say that not only do they play for the World Cup (which, by the way, is not remotely cup-shaped, unlike the supreme trophies in other real sports...) but I say the two Koreas double-down and agree that whoever wins the game also wins the Korean War and gets complete, immediate control of the troubled peninsula!

SERIOUSLY. How is this not already happening? The idea is THAT GOOD.

Go North Korea!

You're welome,

- S.

03 June 2010

Seafloor Nuclear Detonation to Plug Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill *OR* How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let the Bomb Solve All My Problems

Is this what James Cameron has wrought?

When I heard that a Hollywood director was consulting with BP and the US government on outside-the-box solutions to the Gulf Coast oil spill and how to plug that damn well I knew we'd entered the Twilight Zone. (Now, Cameron does have legitimate underwater cred from his underwater film work on The Abyss and Titanic--both the movie and the later documentaries he produced--but still...)

But confirmation that we'd crossed over into the Bizarro world came today with The New York Times reporting that nuclear detonations are being advocated by some "armchair engineers" (but not Cameron, at least so far) as a means to seal the oil spill.

The theory behind this "plan" (and I use the ironic quotes advisedly) is that the extreme heat an exploding atom bomb generates--temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun--when detonated under the sea floor can turn acres of porous rock into a glassy plug, much like a huge stopper in a leaky bottle.

Decades ago, the Soviet Union reportedly used nuclear blasts to successfully seal off runaway gas wells, inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow.

The plan is being backed by "all the best scientists", according to the blissfully, ignorantly optimistic Matt Simmons, a Houston energy expert and investment banker, who filled Bloomberg News in on his plan last Friday.

The only scientist who likes this idea is this guy:

Could you imagine pitching this idea to Obama?

Obama: Is this plan really a workable option, folks?
Strangelove: It would not be difficult Mein Fuhrer! Nuclear weapons could, heh...I'm sorry--Mr. President...

With the failure of the so-called “top kill” effort to plug the leak with mud, BP has moved on to a plan that involves cutting and removing a damaged part of the crippled Deepwater Horizon drill rig (which will temporarily increase the flow from the leak by 20 PERCENT!) and putting a cap over the cleanly cut pipe. Has anyone wondered what happens if they cut the pipe and can't then get the jimmy hat on? We have a 20% bigger problem...

This is all an effort to stop the leak temporarily while BP drills relief wells which will siphon off the oil and stop the leak, but such a plan won't be in place until August and presents its own problems.

The drilling of those relief wells creates a whole new set of worries, including unintended fractures that would create additional leaks.

“If the rock formation that holds the oil has been cracked or compromised in any way, that pressure is going to find another way to get out,” said one official. “And if it comes up through a crack or a seam, it could come up anywhere. And that's what they are trying to avoid.”

What frightens me most is that the oil industry cares so little about the possibility of emergency situations that there is no contingency plan for these kinds of catastrophes. Every time one of the BP stooges steps in front of a microphone to explain what the next attempt will be to staunch the flow they always include the caveat that none of what they're proposing has ever been tried in 5000 feet of water and has a limited possibility of success.

So perhaps you shouldn't drill somewhere you can't fix the problems you might create. And really, BP's every solution has sounded downright laughable: pumping heavy mud into the pipe in hopes of sealing it? Something called a 'junk shot'--which I even heard one spokesman say was "far more hi-tech than it sounds"... Really? Because it just sounds like your going to try and cram shit down the pipe in the hopes you might block the tube. (And when the process was described that's pretty much what the "plan" consisted of).

How was this kind of problem never foreseen and planned for? What scares me is that it probably was foreseen and planning for it would simply have cost too much money so it was ignored, assuming (as these companies always seem to) that it would never happen anyway...

Hoping everything just goes well all the time (pardon the pun) is called 'hubris'. And you know what the gods do to those who suffer from hubris, don't you?

Buggered. Every time.

I sincerely hope that the process of sealing this well (which has apparently already cost BP more than $1 billion), the hit that BP stock will continue to take because of this tragedy, and the combined costs of the civil and criminal liability they will face drive this corporation into bankruptcy. Only then, in the face of a similar fate should one of their drilling projects have a catastrophic incident, will others in the petroleum industry take seriously the need to plan ahead for contingencies, anticipate worst-case scenarios, and actually be prepared to take responsibility for their corporate actions.

- S.