Sorting LEGO from a Stoop Sale

Maker:L,Date:2017-10-2,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

Y and I were surprised when our regular postman Henry rang the doorbell today, because we weren’t expecting to sign for anything today. When I got downstairs, he told me, “Jason, just the man I wanted to see! Mr. M a few blocks away is selling LEGO bricks by the pound. He’s closing at 3:00pm, so you better go if you’re interested.” After thanking him for the heads-up and taking our mail back upstairs, I walked through the sweltering heat to find Mr. M’s place. After finding the right stoop sale, I learned that Mr. M’s son was selling the LEGO to finance a new gaming computer. While talking with them about LEGO, I sorted through the large storage container of LEGO, which was full of bricks on offer by the pound. I was picking bricks while thinking about my Millennium Falcon build that I’m planning. As the sweat rolled down my forehead into my eyes, I thought it might be better to make an offer for the whole container. Happily, Mr. M’s son accepted my offer after pulling some of favorites out that he didn’t want to part with (pun intended). Now that I’m back home, Y and I have been sorting through the container. Mose helped, too.

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Posted in Lego, Personal

Interzone 14, Winter 1985/1986

Maker:L,Date:2017-10-2,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

I received another eBay find today: Interzone issue 14 (Winter 1985/1986). This is a special magazine issue for me, because it contains “The New Science Fiction” manifesto by Vincent Omniaveritas (pseudonym for the science fiction writer and activist Bruce Sterling; his alter ego also appears as publisher of the zine Cheap Truth–read scanned issues here or text of each issue here).

Originally published in the Puerto Rican fanzine Warhoon, this hard-hitting call-to-arms advocates that, “We must create the native literature of a post-industrial society” (40).

This isn’t necessarily a manifesto for the movement known as cyberpunk, but many cyberpunk works fit. Instead, it is a larger artistic movement, which he describes thus at the end of the essay:

What, in short, is the New Science Fiction? How do you write it, how do you recognize it?

First, it is not the property of any editor, clique, publisher, or regional or national association. It is not a question of personal influence, creative writing classes, or apprenticeship to genre gurus. It is a question of approach, of technique. And these are its trademarks:

(1) Technological literacy, and a concern with genuine modern science as opposed to the hand-me-down pseudoscience guff of past decades.

(2) Imaginative concentration, in which extrapolations are thoroughly and originally worked out rather than patched together from previous notions.

(3) Visionary intensity, with a bold, no-holds-barred approach to sf’s mind-expanding potential.

(4) A global, 21st-century point of view, which is not bound by the assumptions of middle-aged, middle-class white American males.

(5) A fictional technique which takes the advances of the new Wave as already given, using the full range of literary craftsmanship, yet asserting the primacy of content over style and meaning over mannerism.

The New Science Fiction is a process, directed toward a goal. It is an artistic movement in the fullest sense of the word. It is the hard work of dedicated artists, who know their work is worthwhile, who treat it as such, and who push themselves to the limit in pursuit of excellent.

And it is for real. (Omniaveritas 40)

The entire manifesto is worth reading–for its historical significance, its ideas for the New Science Fiction, and its prize-fighter-like style of sending its message home blow-after-blow. You can find a copy on Archive.org’s Internet Wayback Machine here.

Works Cited

Omniaveritas, Vincent (Bruce Sterling). “The New Science Fiction.” Interzone. No. 14 (1985), pp. 39-40.

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Posted in Science Fiction

PC Computing, August 1994

Maker:L,Date:2017-10-2,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

The August 1994 issue of PC Computing was my go-to source for customizing my 486/DX2 66MHz system back in high school. I wanted to relive some of those tricks in my emulated DOS environments today, so I began hunting around for a copy to refresh my memory. After having no luck with nearby collections on Worldcat, I reached out to several eBay sellers who offer back issues of computer magazines. Seller sij167 replied that he had a copy that he would offer up, which I immediately purchased. It arrived very well protected this afternoon.

In this issue, the Operating Environments section is particularly helpful for building batch files to do a variety of otherwise tedious typing tasks. There are tips from “superstars,” including Bill Gates and Peter Norton. There are opposite-end-of-the-spectrum columns by John Dvorak and Penn Jillette. And, of course, the advertising! I wonder if I would get a reply if I send off a bubbled-in information request postcard?

A note about the magazine’s title: The Wikipedia page for the magazine lists it as “PC/Computing.” The magazine’s logo is styled with a slash between PC and Computing as shown in the photo above. However, the magazine’s masthead page lists the magazine as “PC Computing” with a space separating PC and Computing, as does the footer on odd number pages throughout the magazine.

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Posted in Computers, Personal

Workaround Solution to Spinning Blue Circle Next to Mouse Pointer (Working in Background) in Windows 10

pointer-workingEver since I installed Windows 10 on this desktop computer build (detailed here), I have been distracted by a tiny spinning blue circle next to my mouse pointer about every 5 minutes. This mouse pointer change indicates that a process is working in the background. I could still move the mouse around and click on things, but the mouse pointer change visually distracted me from the work that I was doing. The user interface, which should facilitate my focused work on the computer, was pulling my attention away from my work and towards what should otherwise fade into the background: the user interface and the operating system.

There are many discussions about what causes Working in Background mouse pointer change, such as here, here, and here. I tried troubleshooting what was causing the regularly appearing “Working in Background” pointer change on my computer, but I couldn’t definitively pin down the cause and resolve it.

Nevertheless, I found a solution to the distraction caused by spinning blue circle: change the “Working in Background” pointer to match the “Normal Select” pointer icon. Here’s how to do this:

Click Start > Settings > Device

settings

In Devices, click Mouse on the left, and then click “Additional Mouse Options” on the right.

settings-mouse

This pops up a new window with additional mouse settings. Click Pointers > Working in Background > Browse.

mouse-properties

This pops up a pointer selection window. Choose “aero_arrow.cur” and then click “Open.” mouse-pointer-select

This returns you to the previous window where you will click “Apply” and “Okay.” Finally, you can close Settings. Now, your mouse pointer should remain as the arrow pointer icon even when a process is working in the background.

Since I have made this change to my computer, I am not distracted by the mouse switching intermittently between the arrow and the arrow with spinning blue circle. Of course, the underlying cause of the spinning blue circle remains, but at least with this solution, whatever is working in the background is no longer disturbing my attentional focus by leaping front-and-center into the UI.

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Posted in Brain, Computers

Computer Upgrades: HDD and RAM

Maker:L,Date:2017-10-2,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

My desktop PC, which I wrote about its build and benchmarks previously, has performed very well since I built it late last year. However, I built it on a budget, so I wasn’t able to outfit it as well as I would have liked. After deciding that I would use the desktop computer as my primary computer, I upgraded it with those components that I needed most: more storage space and more RAM.

The most pressing need was additional hard drive space. The original ADATA 128GB SSD was adequate when I was testing the system and deciding if I wanted to use it as my primary computer. When I wanted to do more than just the bare necessities and have access to my data more quickly than an external backup hard drive or flash drive could provide, I added two hard disk drives.

First, I picked up a Toshiba 5400rpm 2TB OEM drive when Microcenter had them on sale. I had good luck with Toshiba drives from Microcenter with previous computer builds, so I was comfortable using a larger format capacity one in this computer. Due to the limited warranty on OEM drives, I put the drive through its paces to ensure that it wasn’t a lemon: I performed a low level format on the drive, and then I began the laborious task of moving files to the drive via USB and over the network. Then, I culled through the copied files to remove duplicate files. Finally, I erased the free space to stress test the drive again.

Second, I waited for another sale at Microcenter and purchased a Western Digital Blue 5400rpm 4TB drive. After adding it the computer, which required routing the power cable and SATA cables differently than I had done before, I stress tested the new drive with a low level format (this took all evening to perform!) and then copied everything from the Toshiba 2TB drive to the WD 4TB drive.

Another important need was additional RAM for the software that I use–multiple productivity applications, Wolfram Mathematica, and games. The Gigabyte B250-DS3H mATX motherboard supports four sticks of DDR4 RAM. I bought the computer’s first dual-channel pair of Crucial DDR4-2400 4GB RAM sticks at an amazing discount. Unfortunately, DDR4 RAM prices rose and have stayed elevated since that time. When a more modest discount was offered than originally, I chose to take it. Now, all four DDR4 slots are filled with two pairs of Crucial DDR4-2400 RAM for a total of 16GB RAM.

I dabbled with VR before video card prices went through the roof. For this experiment, I upgraded the video card and PSU. I don’t have the video card any longer, but I kept the Corsair CX650M PSU so that I can switch out video cards for something more powerful in the future.

After these upgrades, my computer’s stats are:

Intel i7-7700

Gigabyte B250-DS3H mATX Motherboard

Asus Radeon Rx-550 4GB GDDR5 Video Card

Crucial 16GB 4×4 DDR4-2400 RAM

ADATA SU800 128GB 3D-NAND 2.5 Inch SATA SSD

2TB Toshiba OEM HDD

4TB WD Blue HDD

Corsair CX650M PSU

ROSEWILL Micro ATX Mini Tower Computer Case, FBM-01

Maker:L,Date:2017-10-2,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-Y

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Posted in Computers, Personal, Technology

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, his personal narrative twined with his intellectual accomplishments, was published in 1988. I read it midway through high school, probably in 1993. Shortly afterward, I read his book Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays when it was first released. Also during this time, I was reading books by other scientists, such as Albert Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and General Theory (1920), Richard Feynman’s The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964), Steven Weinberg’s The First Three Minutes (1977), John Gribbin’s In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat (1984), Roger Penrose’s The Emperor’s New Mind (1989), and Michio Kaku’s Hyperspace (1994), Kip Thorne’s Black Holes & Time Warps (1994),  and many more. And, in parallel, I had gotten into reading science fiction from Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury. For me, Hawking’s cosmologies combined with science fictional imaginings were a tremendously powerful fuel feeding my incandescent wonder.

Probably in the 11th grade, my friend Marty Magda, who worked at the local Waldenbooks store, helped me track down Hawking and George Ellis’ The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (1973). It would be dishonest of me to say that I understood this tome, but I made an attempt using what was available to me at that time to learn how to cross each cognitive hurdle–library encyclopedias; popular science books; borrowed math books; newfangled CD-ROM resources, such as Groliers, Encarta, databases; a subscription to Physics Today; the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics; and A Physicist’s Desk Reference.

These intellectual explorations led me to want to earn a degree in Physics after graduating from high school. While my life veered away from physics except as an intellectual hobby, I am very glad that Hawking’s ideas and writing were and continue to be a part of me. He will be dearly missed.

Posted in Personal, Science, Science Fiction

LEGO Playset MOC of Temple Island on Ahch-To in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Inspired by LEGO’s Death Star playset, which is both enormous and scene-focused, I built a 64 x 32 stud MOC of Temple Island on Ahch-To from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. First glimpsed at the end of The Force Awakens and explored in the latest installment, Temple Island is the home of the first Jedi Temple, and it is where Luke Skywalker has been hiding away during the rise of the First Order under the leadership of Snoke and supported by Luke’s former pupil, Ben Solo or Kylo Ren.

As a LEGO playset, it has to balance accuracy, playability, and scale. For accuracy, I based the island’s shoreline on Ireland’s Skellig Michael, which is the location where these scenes were shot for the film. Also, the island’s topography were adhered to as closely as possible by having the north peak slightly lower than the higher south peak, and designing a middle valley between the two peaks, known as Christ’s Saddle on Skellig Michael. Each major scene involving Temple Island has been placed approximately where it would be on the island according to The Art of The Last Jedi and my observations of the film. And, each scene is scaled for play with LEGO minifigures, except where the Millennium Falcon lands along the shoreline, which would otherwise dwarf the island or require building a much larger model! For this element of the MOC, I used the Falcon included in last year’s LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar (75184).

Including all prep time, this build took me about 40 hours. In addition to studying books and magazines that showed glimpses of Temple Island and its topography, I watched YouTube videos such as these: one, two, and three. I leveraged Gimp’s grid rendering to plan the overall design based on a Google Maps’ satellite image of Michael Skellig. Also, I purchased additional LEGO to supplement what I already had on-hand: two 32 x 32 stud blue base plates to construct the MOC on, one green Creative set (10708), and two LEGO Ahch-To Island Training sets (75200).

Below, I am including highlights from the construction process and the completed model. At the end, there are links to these albums with more photos of the MOC: Google Photos and Imgur.

Designing the Shoreline Using Google Maps, Gimp, and Generated Grid

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Top and Side Views of Temple Island

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Rey’s First Encounter with Master Skywalker

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Luke Skywalker’s Hut and Village

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Rey’s Lightsaber Practice (at the Wailing Woman Rock)

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The Sacred Jedi Texts Within the Uneti Tree

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The Jedi Temple and Meditation Rock

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Rey’s Visit to the Mirror Cave

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Portability of the Model 

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View more photos of the model and its development on Google Photos or Imgur.

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Posted in Lego, Science Fiction
Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on DynamicSubspace.net. Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

Reach him by email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu.

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