For the best experience use full HD.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

GSE2 - Lots of Space and One Lovely System

The past week has seen me move well within 1000 light years of my intermediate destination. I'll just keep that under my hat for now though. ;) I have finally passed beyond the COL 359 sectors and have entered the sectors labeled PRU EUQ. There have not been a lot of great systems along the way, though there have been a larger number of star types larger (and hotter) than M.

However, I did come across something I'd never seen before. I dropped out of hyperspace in
COL 359 SECTOR EN-Q B48-2, a system with Two M type stars and two L type. The two M type stars orbited each other at about 85 light seconds so some somewhat tightly. COL 359 SECTOR WA-E D12-89 C orbited them at a few thousand light seconds and COL 359 SECTOR WA-E D12-89 D orbited those three at several tens of thousands of light seconds. It was around COL 359 SECTOR WA-E D12-89 C I found the surprise: four high metal content planets. I'd not found planets around L type stars before.

[gallery columns="2" type="rectangular" size="medium" ids="5102,5103,5101,5104"]

The only really nice system I discovered this past week was COL 359 SECTOR RR-G C25-15. It has a nice assortment of worlds: four high metal content, one gas giant and one terrestrial water world. The terrestrial water world has a very large polar ice cap so isn't quite as boring as pure water worlds with no land masses at all. Perhaps the only issue with this system is the planets orbit two stars with COL 359 SECTOR RR-G C25-15 B being 41k light seconds away, but they are both K types and the water world orbits COL 359 SECTOR RR-G C25-15 A.

[gallery type="rectangular" columns="2" size="medium" ids="5113,5117,5116,5112,5114,5115"]

And that's just about it. Only three other systems made it into my video catalog. Mostly I spent a lot of time flying between stars of multi-star systems. You know, I've heard a lot of other pilots complain about how long it takes to fly between stars in a single system. That was certainly true before the invention of super cruise. But it really doesn't take all that long to get anywhere with super cruise; no more than about 10 minutes no matter the distance crossed.

No, it's true. We all know a gravity well slows super cruise and causes acceleration to fluctuate. But I've watched the chronometer closely on many deep space runs and once away from a star acceleration increases asymptotically. In the latest batch of surveyed systems I had to make several long treks to distant companions. One thing I can confirm from observation is that acceleration while in super cruise eats up more deep space distance per minute the longer it runs.

Using the standard equation v = v0 + at (velocity equals initial velocity plus the result of acceleration multiplied by time,) I ran some of my numbers through the computer. On my way to PRU EUQ YQ-Q B46-5 D 32,000 light seconds from its primary I did two acceleration and two deceleration measurements at the same distance relative to the nearest star. Here are my results:

v0 = 25,332,462,701 m/s at 27k ls
v = 35,075,717,586 at 24k ls
From 25:20:14 to 25:50:15
t = 30 s
a = 324,775,162.83333 m/s²

v0 = 49,165,963,112 m/s at 19k ls
v = 56,360,982,104 m/s at 16k ls
From 26:26:08 to 26:43:10
t = 17 s
a = 423,236,411.29412 m/s²

v0 = 53,962,642,440 m/s at 15k ls
v = 45,868,246,074 m/s at 12k ls
From 26:48:35 to 27:06:46
t = 18 s
a = -449,688,687 m/s²

v0 = 32,377,585,464 m/s at 7.5k ls
v = 21,974,787,171.4 m/s at 4.5k ls
From 27:54:35 to 28:23:14
t = 31 s
a = -335,574,138.47097 m/s²

That's a pretty close correlation there and as you can see acceleration was not constant. There's a 100 million meter per second difference at mid-point. I decided to plot the acceleration curve at 1,000 light second distances starting at 27,000 light seconds from PRU EUQ YQ-Q B46-5 D. Here's the graph of that flight.

[caption id="attachment_5129" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Cobra Velocity Deep Space Run PRU EUQ YQ-Q B46-5 D Cobra Velocity Deep Space Run PRU EUQ YQ-Q B46-5 D[/caption]

As you can see I throttled down about the 1635 second mark and that muffs the deceleration curve. But you can just see a hint of an asymptotic curve starting on the acceleration side of the chart. However, it's not clear enough in only 32,000 light seconds.

That's what I went back to the nav data and did the same thing with on my run to COL 359 Sector RR-G C25-15 B. There was no throttle down during either leg of that super cruise and it was a 42,000 light second distance. Here's the chart for that run.

[caption id="attachment_5130" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Cobra Velocity Deep Space Run COL 359 Sector RR-G C25-15 B Cobra Velocity Deep Space Run COL 359 Sector RR-G C25-15 B[/caption]

You can definitely see the asymptotic curve forming in this graph with the data points near the peak obviously coming faster than on either end. But with this particular graph it might not be apparent to some unless I used a 300,000 light second distance. But there is another way to look at the data other than velocity over time. We can look at it as a function of 1000 light second increments over time. That would answer the question of whether my cobra was indeed crossing 1000 light seconds of deep space more quickly at the midpoint of the run than the ends. Here's that graph.

[caption id="attachment_5131" align="aligncenter" width="660"]1k LS Increments Over Time COL 359 Sector RR-G C25-15 B 1k LS Increments Over Time COL 359 Sector RR-G C25-15 B[/caption]

It should now be plainly obvious to anyone that my Cobra Mark III was indeed gobbling up deep space faster at the mid-point of my run than on the ends. Of course, I'll need a run 10 times that long to prove my ship can cross any distance about 10 minutes. This is just showing you that my premise has merit. Next time I have a companion star a hella long way from its primary, I'll be sure to capture that data for you.

Until then, fly careful!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

2014 Nebula Award Nominee List: Final Thoughts

The weekend of June 4, 2015 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America will announce the 50th annual Nebula Awards. There are several award categories ranging from full novel to short stories. I unfortunately do not have the time to read everything on the nominee list between the time it is announced and the award weekend, so I limit myself to just the novels. Week before last I finished the last of the nominees on this year's list. I will repost the list here, in alphabetical order for convenience sake.

I have linked my review of each novel to the titles above should you wish to review them. Before I get to my choice for best novel, I think I should discuss what I look for in a book. I also must disclose my biases, for like everyone else I do have them and they will affect my choice.

I have never been able to decide if I am a fussy reader or not. I have a preference for the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre, but I have read books from many genres. I have read many of the literary masterpieces for example, with "Crime and Punishment" and "Of Mice and Men" among my favorites. I have studied Shakespeare at the university level, as well as Chaucer and Goethe. In my previous profession I was literally a student of Sun Tzu ("The Art of War") and Carl von Clausewitz ("On War".) So when I look at a book, science fiction or otherwise, I have a critical eye. If that makes me a fussy reader then I'll wear that sign. But I really don't think of myself as a fussy reader. I can thoroughly enjoy a book and yet hold it in low critical esteem. Let's face facts, some books are just mind candy. They are written to be fun, and that does not require they be thought-provoking or existentially deep. John Scalzi's Redshirts was one such book. It is hugely popular, but it is not a literary masterpiece.

Many people will say that Science Fiction and Fantasy can never be literary masterpieces. That it is the nature of the genre. That is elitist bull shit. While it is true that much of the genre is not literary masterpiece quality, it is no more or no less well written than all the other genre's out there including the one named literary. Yes, I'm intentionally mixing up two slightly different things here - on purpose. Literary in the language sense means having a marked style intended to create a particular emotional effect. It applies to all written works. The Bible and the Quran are literary in this sense, and so is Red Shirts. Then there is the term literary fiction as used in the publishing industry. It originally only meant the work was outside the normal fictional genres like romance or western. But over time some have implied it means superior fiction or superior writing, and that somehow the genre fictions are lesser works. Codswallop! All fiction has the potential to be a masterpiece regardless of genre. It is not the vehicle of a story which makes it great writing, but the talent of the writer, and writers like Ursula K. Le Guin are not hacks simply because they use a genre vehicle to create a particular emotional effect.

With that in mind, I hold all works of writing to the same standards and maintain that using a classification system as a ranking system is a fool's game. What I look for in a work of science fiction or fantasy is the same as I look for in stories like Crime and Punishment. First and foremost, does the story follow logically and emotionally. By logically I mean do events unfold as they would in real life? Are the emotions appropriate to the situation? In short, is it believable. To any that are still smarting from my declaration that literary fiction superiority is the real fiction, let's address right now the science and technology issue which most of you get hung up on when it comes to my prefered genre. By believable I am not talking about things. I am talking about people, their reactions to situations and the emotions they exhibit. Are THOSE believable, because they are what really matter - not whether you think faster than light travel is possible or not. If the characters' actions, thoughts, beliefs and emotions are well done, that character becomes real in my mind. That's a critical threshold to cross for any writer. If your characters are not believable, then your story is not believable and any larger point you are trying to make is ruined. You can not argue truth from a position of falsehood, and that starts with your characters being true to the human condition and always acting that way even when they are a superhero. All of my favorite superheroes are deeply flawed human beings because that to me is real. That's what I look for in a good book.

The next thing I look for in a good book is entertainment value. Yeah, I'm shallow that way. But seriously, if the story isn't fun to read why am I spending time on it? I do not have enough free hours in the day to waste on unenjoyable endeavors. That's what a job is for, right? :o When I pick up a book I want to be entertained. But let's not sell that word short. There are many ways to be entertained. When an author presents you with a thought-provoking idea that blows your mind as the end of 2010: A Space Odyssey Two did with me, that is entertainment. When an author writes prose so well that each word is the hammer stroke of a master artisan creating the equivalent of a FabergĂ© egg in your mind which so real it seems tangible, that is entertainment. When two characters have an exchange of words that makes you laugh out loud, or cry, or cringe, that is entertainment. When you get from a book what you sought from it in the first place, or that feeling you didn't even know you needed, that is entertainment. That's what I expect from an award winner.

Now lastly, there is one special category I have to cover since the Nebula Award is a science fiction and fantasy award. Those authors who write science fiction have a hurdle to jump. Actually, it's more like pole vaulting with me. In science fiction there is extra onus placed on suspension of disbelief. That is a very hard thing to make me do. I will come right out and say that in the list above there is only one work of science fiction. The other five nominations are all fantasy. That's how tough I am when it comes to suspension of disbelief. And that is also part of my bias. I love science. In my version of a real life alternate reality, I am a scientist. I believe the scientific method is the best way to sort true from false. When an author does the research and gets the science correct, I am ecstatic. That is why I am such a fan of "The Martian" by Andy Weir. He got it right every step of the way. It's also why Interstellar ultimately fell on its face as far as I'm concerned. But they both had another thing I love: space travel. The first science fiction I ever read (aside: the first book I remember reading was "The Emergence of Man" my 5th grade year. The first fiction I remember reading was "Bambi, A Life in the Woods" my 6th grade year) was a Scholastic book titled "Trapped In Space" by Jack Williamson. From the back of the book:

Astronaut Ben is lost - a million miles from Earth! His last message” ‘Strange life forms here…we’re under attack…’

Jeff sets off to rescue him, but soon his own crippled starship is caught in the same eerie web of a monstrous creature from outer space!

That was my hook, line and sinker; I've been biased toward space travel books, and science fiction in general, ever since. I also have a bias towards happy endings. Call me an optimist. The dilemma for me when it comes to these biases is when the story meets all those other criteria above, but fails my own personal bias. Is it fair to the author to think less of the story than it likely deserves? Does fairness matter? It's a tough call.

In the end I can only speak for myself. I try not to let my biases overwhelm what I know makes a well written work of literature. I think I am analytical enough, and identified with Spock enough as a child, that I can pull that off. Only in the case where I really believe the other criteria can't distinguish between two equally well written books do I then allow a bias to become a tiebreaker.

Guess what? That seems to happen almost every time. And really, in the end isn't it all subjective anyway? I have my own ideas how people should act and react. That's a subjective bias. I also know that you can put 100 English majors in the same room, present them with one grammatical conundrum, and they won't be able to agree on what the correct grammar rules are to solve the conundrum. In the end, it often comes down to a choice of style, and that's a bias. Fortunately, I can live with my biases. And, unlike the Hugo awards in August, I only have to pick one of the books above as my choice for the 2014 Nebula Award. No rank ordering required.

Still, it wasn't an easy decision. I enjoyed all these books. They were all great fun. But in the end, I had to go with the one I found most thought-provoking. I choose...

The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu ( ), translated by Ken Liu (Tor)














The Three-Body Problem entertained me in many ways. The first thing I really appreciated was the insight it gave me into the Chinese cultural revolution of the 1960s. I thought I had an idea of what it was like, but this book more than any academic text I've ever read on the subject made it real to me. Perhaps to someone born and raised in China this isn't such a big deal, but to my western mind it was enlightening.

I also found the characters, their motivations and their emotions to be genuine. Each remained true to the convictions given them, even when that conviction lead one to send an interstellar message dooming mankind to extinction, and another to collaborate with the exterminators, the Trisolarans , for the good of the planet. There were more than a couple of stereotypes, but they were done purposefully and only one was a main character to my way of thinking. I also like hardboiled cops who play by their own rulebook. ;) It wasn't a failure on the author's part to understand a particular character was a stereotype. There is a difference between those who stereotype from ignorance or inability, and those who stereotype to make a point. I believe Cixin Liu falls into the latter category.

The science in Three-Body was also well-considered and utilized. The story plays out over decades because there is no faster than light means to enable mankind and the Trisolarans  to communicate. There were no faster than light ships with which to launch an invasion. Quite the contrary, the Trisolarans are only 4 light years from Earth in the Alpha Centauri star system, but their invasion fleet will take 400 years to arrive because they are bound by the laws of inertia and travelling at only a fraction the speed of light. From the 1960s technology of the giant radio telescope called Red Coast, to the computer game that educated humans about Trisolaran history and the problems caused by the sun and the flying stars, Cixin Liu gets it right. And that last bit with the flying stars was simply brilliant. I loved how he managed to portray a trinary star system in terms a bronze age or iron age civilization would understand. Trying to figure out what sun would rise and how long it would last was fun. And the use of human historical figures to portray Trisolaran historical figures was exceedingly entertaining.

Eventually, when it came time to suspend disbelief, the seemingly impossible quantum manipulation science of the Trisolarans was still rooted in the current Standard Model. Though highly theoretical, the Trisolaran science does not cross the line of violating the laws of the universe, though it does stretch them quite a bit. But that's why they call it science fiction. :D Suspension of disbelief at that point was very easy for me because who knows, perhaps one day we will be able to turn a quantumly entangled pair of protons into matching supercomputers using quark bits and nuclear weak force circuitry. There is no magic there, just the currently untestable. It was still presented in a coherent, logical, scientific fashion.

In the end, I felt this book encompassed what I feel science fiction is all about. It not only deals with current real world issues which have their roots in past events and decisions, but it explores scientific potentials I'd not considered before. And like all the old school authors I loved reading as a young man, science, hard work and determination provide a route out of darkness - metaphorically speaking. You are never without hope so long as you have intelligence and the will to use it. That's what I feel science fiction should be about. That's what Three-body brings to the genre. That's why I pick it for the 2014 Nebula Award.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

GSE2 - Surprise Dwarfs and Water Giants

Two weeks out and I've put another few hundred light years behind me. I've been making maximum jumps. At first it was to just get where I was going. Lately it's been because the stars are further apart. I can really tell I've moved into the intra-arm region now. The other indicator is none of the systems I've landed in this week had been surveyed previously and only one was visited by another: either a prospector or a tourist, as they didn't bother to scan the one high metal content world orbiting the T Tauri star COL 359 SECTOR OX-J B38-0. I corrected the mistake, but that was the only star system with someone else's name on it.

[caption id="attachment_5052" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-0 A 1 COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-0 A 1[/caption]

This week I've only discovered one planet with life forms. It was a gas giant in COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-0 and it'd given rise to radioplankton - tiny carbon-based algae - living off the radiation flux of the behemoth planet. This system had two M type red dwarfs and two gas giants, many moons and lots of rubble.

[caption id="attachment_5053" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-8 A 4 COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-8 A 4[/caption]

I've had a bit more luck finding terraforming candidates. The first I came across was in COL 359 SECTOR JO-W C16-8 orbiting the M type main star of trinary system consisting of that main, a L type dwarf and a T type dwarf.

[gallery type="rectangular" size="medium" ids="5055,5056,5054"]

Two days later I hit a small bonanza of terraforming candidates orbiting a rare A type star. It was an curious trio of two water worlds with ammonia atmospheres and a high metal content planet with no atmosphere. They were tightly orbiting each other in the Goldilocks zone about 2200 light seconds (4.4 AU, nearly the distance to Jupiter in the Sol system) out from their 8768-degree-kelvin hot star. With the three other high metal content worlds in this system it should fetch a good commission.

However, the best was saved for last. Yesterday I jumped into COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97, which the computer lists as a binary system with a F type main star and a M class dwarf companion. That much is true enough. The F type and M type star orbit each other at about 150 light seconds making it a nice, close, but not too close, binary. The M type companion even had four metal rich nuggets orbiting closely to sweeten the pot. Combined with seven ringed gas giants, most of which have at least one metal rich ring, and this is quite a lucrative system.

[gallery type="columns" columns="2" ids="5060,5059"]

But that's not really a surprise. The real surprise was discovering the astronomical data on this system was possibly wrong. It turns out the fifth planet isn't really a planet but a Y type dwarf making it a third stellar companion - maybe.

[caption id="attachment_5061" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 5 COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 5[/caption]

This isn't the first time I've come across this particular surprise. I've encountered it one other time at WREDGUIA NI-I C23-14. Though these bodies have been confirmed to exist for a thousand years, being first positively identified by the ancient WISE telescope at the beginning of the 21st century, scientists still can't come to agreement as to whether these are failed stars or highly successful gas giants. They are planet sized and some have surface temperatures as cool as my cockpit. This particular Y dwarf has a surface temperature of 388 kelvin making it one of the hotter of its ilk. But one of the first Y dwarfs discovered by WISE, WISE 0855−0714, has a surface temperature of only about 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Seriously. Now you know why they vex astronomers so.

[caption id="attachment_5062" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 9 COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 9[/caption]

But the Y type dwarf wasn't the last surprise this system held in store for me. The ninth and last planet, another giant, looked normal enough as I approached it. But as soon as the detailed surface scan finished, I was dumb struck. I sat in my seat for several minutes just trying to take in the implication of what my readouts were telling me. Here, I'll let the data speak for itself.

[caption id="attachment_5063" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 9 Info COL 359 SECTOR SU-F D11-97 AB 9 Info[/caption]

How is that even possible? The atmosphere is 98.4% water. You know, I've discovered planets with water atmospheres somewhat regularly. There was one in this system in a binary relationship with planet 6. But how do you get a water giant? Oh, I see what it says about a large icy body getting warm enough to melt and create a greenhouse effect keeping the ices vaporized. What I don't get is what would cause the melt in the first place. This water giant is in binary relationship with the eighth planet, but it isn't even close to warm enough to melt an icy world. The orbit is also too regular to inform me it is a captured satellite. The Y dwarf in this system is relatively close, but it isn't nearly hot enough to create a water giant. Is it? I'd find it a hard theory to believe considering astronomers can't even decide if it is a star. But the proof is in the measuring. I'll have to leave it to other's to figure out the mystery.

Me, I get paid for making discoveries and scanning them, not figuring out why they are. So I will move on from this odd system and find more. I have an intermediate destination in mind, but it's still about 1000 light years away. At this rate, having to scan each system I land in now, it'll take me weeks to get there. That's okay. There are plenty of mysteries in between I'm certain. If your curious to see more about these systems you can always have a look at them in my video catalog.


And as always, fly careful.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Trial by Fire (Tales of the Terran Republic #2) by Charles E. Gannon

[caption id="attachment_5040" align="alignleft" width="150"]Trial by Fire (click for publishing details) Trial by Fire (click for publishing details)[/caption]

Charles E. Gannon hangs out (in a literary sense) with the likes of Eric Flint and David Webber. Yes, that Eric Flint and that David Weber - two authors I read the hell out of when I was a younger man. But he is not so much a student of theirs as a collaborator. I am certain he learned from them during their works together, but only as much as they likely learned from him. He is, after all, a Distinguished Professor of English as well as a military game designer - he worked on Twilight 2000, a game I loved while I was still in uniform, and was a an author and editor for GDW. He not only knows how to use the English language very well, but he gets the military in a way only military personnel typically understand. This makes him very well qualified to write military science fiction.

So when I saw Trial by Fire was on the Nebula award nominee list this year, I was either genuinely excited or filled with dread. That needs some explanation. Since leaving the military 20 years ago I'd gotten out of the habit of reading military science fiction for personal reasons. It's hard to read when your friends are living war and there's nothing you can do to help them because now you're a civilian and can't serve. It really soured me in more ways than one. There was some bitterness involved. My leaving was voluntary but compelled by the loss of my physical combat qualifications due to a training accident. I lost my picket fence for those that know what that means, and it was too late to change specialties. And the mid 90s were a bad time for that to happen, what with the end of the cold war and the inevitable reduction in forces. Perhaps "some bitterness" is an understatement. Regardless, I didn't feel like reading fiction at all for the first 10 years of that post military funk. And I chose to read and listen to mostly other stuff (the Old Man's War series by John Scalzi being an exception) since getting back into the habit of books. That's why I was unsure about my reaction to the nomination, and the fact that by my own self imposed rules I would have to listen to it.

And man did I want to hate Trial by Fire when I started into it. I really, really did. But I can't. In fact, it's a damn good story, but not perfect, and I'll explain why lower down the page. But first, let's get the publisher's summary in front of you so you know a little bit about the setting. Don't worry about spoilers. This book is so big (24 hours long as an audiobook!) a few paragraphs of summary won't spoil it a bit. But I've only used the first paragraph so you can discover the other twists on your own.

When reluctant interstellar diplomat and intelligence operative Caine Riordan returns from humanity's first encounter with alien races, sudden war clouds burst. With Earth's fleet shattered by a sneak attack and its survivors fighting for their lives, Caine must rely upon both his first contact and weaponry skills to contend with the non-humanoid enemy. And when the technologically-superior attackers sweep aside the solar system's last defenses, and traitorous corporations invite the invaders to land 'security forces,' humanity fights back with its best weapons: cunning, inventiveness, and guts.

So let's start with what was really good about Trial by Fire. It's huge. I don't mean that it's long, which it is. I mean it encompasses a literal world war (several worlds in fact) and does so with a clarity and panache that makes you believe Dr. Gannon has written four times as many books as he has. His command of the English language enables him to clearly describe actions and emotions without slowing down even during a firefight so intense you feel like you're actually there.

And in that is another key skill the author exhibits. We've all read that book where the action starts and then there are five pages of psychoanalysis on how the combatants feel and how their horrible childhood makes it even worse. Such writing completely derails the adrenalin moment and ruins the scene. When reading military science fiction, we the reader want that adrenalin pump - gods know why - but we do. Stopping to tell us what the combatants are feeling doesn't work. And though there are times that must happen, especially with emotions more complex than anger or fear, a good writer must figure our how there can be a logical lull in the action that allows for such edification. Charles Gannon knows how to do that well. He will get your heart racing and won't spoil the ride by slamming on the brakes mid yell. I know you know what I mean. :D

To go along with this huge story is a huge cast. There are of course the protagonist and antagonist and all their minions. But beyond that there is a literal cast of thousands, some of whom you will get to know for only a brief time and some who will be around a bit longer - and you will care about every one of them. You will either want them to survive or you will want them to die, die, die, die, die. If you are even slightly in touch with your emotions, you will be sad, mad, glad and possibly in shock at various times. Though there was no scene that left me sitting there in my car (where I listen to audiobooks most of the time) with my jaw hanging open, I certainly mumbled, "Huh" more than once along with some expletives I'd rather not repeat here.

I also appreciated the science, pseudo and otherwise, in this story. Yes, it is basically space opera and therefore fantasy. But Charles Gannon at least tries to make his faster than light travel fit with what we know of universal laws and strictures. But it's still FTL and that's not possible by any current theory. His concept of how the various races get a fleet from one star system to another is quite logical and consistent throughout the book. They all do it the same way, just some have been doing it longer and have a better understanding of the pseudo science. It may be fantasy, but it's logically consistent fantasy and that makes it better. It's allowable considering how well he does with the practicality of his remaining science oriented parts. High energy nuclear pulse lasers are not beyond the realm of possibility by any stretch of the imagination. Ships in combat are still ruled by Newtonian physics. Fire enough AK-47s downward and you can achieve lift off. Okay, there are no jetpacks in this story, but there are AK-47s and he uses them appropriately.

Now for what I didn't like about this book. It's a male oriented book written by a male author for a predominantly male audience. There are a few female characters and Dr. Gannon probably even thinks they are strong female characters. But cheesuz kreist, if you slave their motivations to the same sad male misinterpretations of what motivates the female of our species you deserve to have a hot drink thrown in your lap. Either quite trying to write female characters or go talk to some actual females wearing a uniform. Either way it'll be better. That's all I can say about that because spoilers.

Also, please, please, please ban the phrase "just so" from your freaking vocabulary Dr. Gannon. How many dozens of times did you use it? I quit counting after a baker's dozen. It was said at one point or another by almost every major character in the book, human and alien. WTF? Stop it! Try using the words precisely, exactly or spot on once in a while would you? Thanks in advance.

In summary, Trial by Fire (Tales of the Terran Republic #2) by Charles E. Gannon is one hell of an exciting romp through the firefights of interstellar war and diplomacy. I not only found myself enjoying it, it was a real page turner. I found myself starting Audible on my Nexus 6 even when I wasn't in the car in order to find out what happened next. It's not the first book with which I've felt compelled to do that, but it is the first that actually broke down my willpower not to. I certainly plan to listen to the next book in the series, Raising Caine, when it releases later this year even if the "just so" phrase isn't completely removed. I anticipate it will be as exciting and fun as this book.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

GSE2 - Log Entry One

I spent a week at Martinez Platform performing routine maintenance and contemplating what I would do next. My basic decision was whether I'd follow my heart and head back out to the lonely depths of space, or head back into so-called civilized space and earn credits more quickly. After completing the routine maintenance, I needed to take a short validation cruise. As I was looking and the galactic map, I saw a giant red blob just over 25 light years away: Kepler-16. That's a famous name, so I decided it would be the destination for my maintenance validation trip.

[caption id="attachment_4993" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]Kepler-16 1 Kepler-16 1[/caption]

Kepler-16 is a cool red giant with a hot Jupiter orbiting it at 0.65 AU which is 325 ls. 1

The star itself has a solar radius 46.6 times greater than Sol so the first 108 ls of that orbit is within the star's photosphere. That leaves the planet 217 ls from the surface of the star which has a temperature of 2,952 degrees kelvin. The surface of Kepler-16 1 is subsequently heated to 1,074 degrees kelvin. Thus the name hot Jupiter. There are 6 high metal content worlds in orbit of Kepler-16 as well making this a high value survey, though I was not the first to do so. Their surface temperatures are far too high to make any of them terraforming candidates.

[caption id="attachment_4995" align="aligncenter" width="1080"]Milky Way Galaxy - annotated Milky Way Galaxy - annotated[/caption]

And that was all it took. As I did my video catalog flyby of Kepler-16 1, I knew I was going back out again, credits be damned. I have a good ship that fits my needs. She does not need replacing. Galactic Survey Expedition Two (GSE2) was inevitable. So I returned to Martinez Platform, provisioned my ship for three months (with a months extra supply of coffee crammed into every nook and cranny I could find,) and left for the core of the Milky Way. I am making maximum jumps to get across humanity's home region, the Orion Spur, and I hope to find a route along the edge of the Scutum Dark Region that will bring me to the main Sagittarius Arm. Once there, I plan to travel up the arm until I can safely cross the gap to the Scutum-Centaurus Arm and follow it toward the rim. I am only stopping along the way to survey systems that have never been surveyed.

[gallery type="columns" columns="2" size="medium" ids="4997,4998"]

The first such system I cam across was COL 359 SECTOR HL-X D1-79. This K-type main sequence star has 8 valuable planets. And by valuable I mean not just in the monetary sense. The six innermost worlds are all terraforming candidates, and even the rocky moon COL 359 SECTOR HL-X D1-79 4 A is a terraforming candidate! I didn't even realize this until I was looking at my system's updated data after I'd finished scanning all bodies. I've never before encountered a moon terraforming candidate, let alone one where the parent planet was also one. Makes me wish I'd have gotten a picture of them together. Needless to say, the moon did not get a flyby in my catalog video.

[caption id="attachment_5002" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]COL 359 SECTOR QI-S D4-13 2 COL 359 SECTOR QI-S D4-13 2[/caption]

The next unsurveyed system was COL 359 SECTOR QI-S D4-13, a G-type star a large class III gas giant and a metal and rock ringed gas giant of equal size supporting water-based life in its atmosphere.

[gallery type="columns" columns="2" size="medium" ids="5006,5005"]

The next two systems I stopped to survey, G-type COL 359 SECTOR JX-I C10-18 and K-type COL 359 SECTOR UO-Q D5-6, each had a terraforming candidate as their first planet. The only other planet of note in COL 359 SECTOR JX-I C10-18 was a high metal content world far distant at 13.3 AU (6636.8 ls.) In actuality, the inner planets of this system had already been surveyed. I made an exception because such distant high metal content worlds always catch my attention, and no one had yet surface scanned it. COL 359 SECTOR UO-Q D5-6 had three other high metal content worlds and a lovely Neptune like gas giant. Honestly, it had also been surveyed before, but I needed a break from jump-scoop-jump-scoop routine.

[gallery type="columns" columns="2" size="medium" ids="5008,5009"]

The last system I encountered without a survey was COL 359 SECTOR DX-Z C14-11. This is a binary system with a K-type main sequence primary and a M-type red dwarf companion. The M-type companion had a single high metal content world. The K-type primary's two innermost planets were far more interesting. COL 359 SECTOR DX-Z C14-11 1 is a terraforming candidate. COL 359 SECTOR DX-Z C14-11 2 is a terrestrial water world with carbon-water based life. Jackpot! It's the featured image in this log entry, but here it is again in all its lovely blue splendor.

[caption id="attachment_5011" align="aligncenter" width="1080"]COL 359 SECTOR DX-Z C14-11 A 2 COL 359 SECTOR DX-Z C14-11 A 2[/caption]

I am currently more than 700 light years inward of Kaleo. Over the next week I hope to make it across the inner arm gap. I've already had one close encounter with a dark object which caused an emergency drop out of super cruise. I repaired the resultant system damage, but my hull integrity was reduced three percent. It's not much, but when you're as far out as I am no amount of damage makes you happy. I'll endeavor to be more careful. Who knows what else is lurking in the void between the stars. You all fly careful too.

  1.  This star system is not the actual star system identified by the Kepler space telescope and designated number sixteen. The actual Kepler-16 system is a binary with a K-type main-sequence star and M-type red dwarf companion. There is a single Saturn sized planet confirmed in orbit of the binary pair. Current theory holds that when Sol enters its red giant phase, Jupiter will then become a hot Jupiter. However, to date we have not detected any hot Jupiter type planets in orbit around red giant stars to confirm the theory. You all fly careful too. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Search for Life in the Universe by Time

[caption id="attachment_4986" align="alignleft" width="110"]The Search for Life in the Universe The Search for Life in the Universe[/caption]

I was picking up a friend at the airport a couple of weekends past. While I was standing beyond the TSA line waiting for him to deplane, a magazine in the ubiquitous airport shop grabbed my attention from 50 feet away. It was Time's The Search for Life in the Universe, sub-titled "Is Anybody Out There? Science is Finding New Clues." You can see to the left why the cover of this magazine caught my eye from so far away. It is gorgeous.

It was so gorgeous it pulled me into the shop to look at it. Then it commanded me to buy it. Obviously I was under alien influence because who really shops in an airport unless they are getting on a plane, which I was not. I bought it anyway. It was only $16.99 in an airport. It'll be less at the local magazine rack I'm sure.

It is a gorgeous 96-page spine bound magazine made up of nothing but beautiful glossy pages - emphasis on beautiful. It will look great on anyone's coffee table. The paper is nearly cardstock thick. Stiff enough you won't want to bend the pages back or dog-ear them, but flexible enough I had no trouble holding it open while reading in bed. Magazines seem to have become my bedtime ritual since I mostly listen to books these days. I still love the feel of pages in between thumb and fingers though.

Besides the incredible cover and alien influence, what made me pull it from the shelf was the wide range of articles within its covers. It not only tells the story of how our Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has gone to date, but also delves into future possibilities and the deeper questions of whether life exists out there at all, and if so in what possible form. It uses examples of what we've discovered on Earth to help answer those larger questions. It is a practical A to Z of what matters in the search for life beyond Earth.

The reading is easy yet thought-provoking. There is science within the covers, but it is used illustratively, utilizing everyday language, and only when necessary to explain the significance of a discovery or reasons directing the search in particular directions. And best of all, it talks about the people involved. From the planet hunters to the extremophile discoverers, it talks about their triumphs and their disappointments.

If you want to know more about how the search for life out there is going, and what motivates the searchers, I can't imagine a better read. If you are looking for hard facts and science though, you may want to graduate to a more academic text. This magazine is meant for the average person who is interested, but not necessarily dedicated to the proposition that not all equations are mandatory. The only equation in this publication is the Drake Equation. But I will admit, it told me a few things I did not know - and I've been into SETI since Carl Sagan's COSMOS and have donated many, many CPU cycles to the SETI@home project. Maybe life here did start out there...

tl;dr Highly recommended.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mortal Kombat X - Initial Thoughts

When Mortal Kombat release in 1992, I had to relive my youth and go to the arcade to play it. It came to the early consoles in 1993 on Mortal Monday, but since I didn't own one I still had to go to the arcade. In 1994 it finally came to the PC and I grabbed it as soon as I could. By today's standards the game was rudimentary, but back then it was incredible. I kept playing Mortal Kombat into the late 90s. But due to non-game related life events, I drifted away from Mortal Kombat. It was only meant to be temporary, but with the debacle that was Special Forces convincing my to wait longer that temporary hiatus stretched into a decade and a half.

The hiatus finally ended this year.  One of my unspoken guilty pleasures from April on has been watching the gaming world's reactions to Mortal Kombat X. I became addicted to watching game play videos, settling on TrU3Ta1ent  as my go to entertainment channel. He also takes characters into the "lab" and explains how he goes about learning how to fight them. It is very instructional, and it wasn't long before he got me jonesing to play Mortal Kombat again.

So two weeks ago I did it, even though some people were reporting issues running the Steam PC version. I am happy to report flawless victory. I have had no issues whatsoever, and Mortal Kombat X plays like a dream on my four-year old PC. I have no idea what the problem is with all the unhappy souls on Steam. Perhaps they need better computers, but as I said, mine is not exactly state of the art. And when I looked just now, there were over 7000 people playing the Steam version. Is this just a case of grumpy puppies wanting to piss on the furniture? I don't know. The only thing I recommend (highly) is you get yourself a proper controller. The keyboard controls aren't bad, but the keys are too close together and I kept catching the edge of other keys and messing up my combos - not that I'm all that great at combos yet. :/ I'm controller agnostic so opted for the Xbox One controller which is plug-and-play on my Windows 8.1 system. It too works flawlessly.

How's the game play you'd like to know? Well, it's fast. :D For real though, it's Mortal Kombat with modern graphics and computing power. The graphics are gorgeous and the kombo system is amazing. I especially like all the information provided for the various moves. Not only does it tell you where the blows land in general, but it gives lots of data on how fast the move is, how long the recovery from it is and the likelihood your opponent could block it. And that's not all. Here, have a look for yourself.

[caption id="attachment_4952" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]Sub-Zero Kombos Screen Sub-Zero Kombos Screen[/caption]

What this screen tells me is the kombo will generally land mid, that it has a low likelihood of being blocked and is fairly quick starting. However, recover is a bit slow and the damage is minimal. All this information is given in execution frames, with 60 frames per second being the standard rate for Mortal Kombat X. If you look at the recover frame data above, it takes a smidgen over a half second to recover from the kombo. That can be an eternity in Mortal Kombat. But it's not this simple. If you want to see how complicated using this frame data really is, read this thread from the Test Your Might web site. WARNING: it'll make you bleed from the ears.

I took the screenshot above from the Practice screen in Training mode. No longer do you have to fight real bouts simply to learn your moves. In training mode, you can really dissect a character and get good at playing it before you ever face a human opponent. I know that's not really a new thing, but it's new to me. I don't ever remember having that option back in the 90s. And if I did, I doubt it came with the ability to record a juggling kombo, then switch to the opponent and see if you can actually stop your own kombo. :o That's awesome.

And you've plenty of options for practicing what you learn in practice. There is a tutorial which will help familiarize new players with the mechanics of Mortal Kombat X. There is also a story line you can play which really does three things: tells the story of Mortal Kombat, let's you try several of the characters, and learn more about how the mechanics of the game work when facing a computer AI.

[caption id="attachment_4965" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]Faction War Faction War[/caption]

Once you've become comfortable with the controller in your hand, you can proceed to fighting matches. I'd recommend any new player start with easy AI opponents, and then work your way up from there. You will still get rewards and experience, and it will avoid the frustration of constantly losing against more experienced human opponents. In fact, that's one thing about Mortal Kombat X I really appreciate. Yes, there is an entire community fighting each other out there on the Internet. But you don't have to get involved right away and you can still contribute. Look at today's challenges to help your faction listed above. Though some challenges may require PvP, today's challenges can all be played solo against any level of AI opponent. And no one other than you knows the difference - at least until you go to fight a human opponent and you're pwned because AIs are predictable and humans are not. :( But do realize at some point you're probably going to need/want to do that. It's why it is called Mortal Kombat.

[caption id="attachment_4955" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]Test Your Might Test Your Might[/caption]

But interestingly enough, fighting isn't the only thing you can do in Mortal Kombat X. In the Towers, of which there are three different categories, the original Test Your Might game play is preserved. This goes all the way back to Mortal Kombat I. It is a series of objects which you must break in order to proceed. You get rewards for completing them, and gruesome death if you fail. You can run through the towers as often as you like, though many have timers on them that make you wait from hours to days up to a week.

[caption id="attachment_4956" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]The Krypt The Krypt[/caption]

There is also the Krypt. The Krypt is a dungeon area where you can go to spend the koins you have earned as well as obtain more koins. Here is where you get additional outfits, alternate fatalities, game play assistance awards and other valuable things. Here's a sample of what the Krypt offers. Be sure to watch it full screen to get the full ambiance and incredible graphics artistry.


:twisted: Muwhahahahahahahahaha. I had to share. They nearly make me jump out of my chair every time.

You know, I could keep writing and writing about all the cool stuff contained within the game. There's a huge content load within the start and end lines of its code. I've got 30 hours sunk into Mortal Kombat X and I've not even finished the story line. I keep finding new things to grab my interest. Then there is the lure of the combat. Nothing is quite as satisfying as completing a high damage kombo except winning. But to win, you have to put in the time. Fortunately Mortal Kombat X makes that easy - the putting in the time part, not the winning part. ;) I foresee many, many more hours spent honing my kombo skills and having an all around smashing time. NetherRealm Studios has done a great job with this tenth installment of the Mortal Kombat franchise. It is a worthy successor.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Coming Home (Alex Benedict #7) by Jack McDevitt

[caption id="attachment_4931" align="alignleft" width="198"]Coming Home (Alex Benedict #7) by Jack McDevitt (ISBN 0425260879, ISBN13: 9780425260876) Coming Home (Alex Benedict #7) by Jack McDevitt (ISBN 0425260879, ISBN13: 9780425260876)[/caption]

Alex Benedict is an antiquarian. If you are unfamiliar with that term, look up American Pickers on the History channel in the United States. This is what Alex Benedict does. He finds old things collectors value and picks them (in today's parlance) so he can sell them to the collectors who desire them. He is part historian, part sleuth, part archaeologist and, according to his detractors, part grave robber. This is the seventh book about Alex Benedict written by award winner Jack McDevitt, and is itself nominated for a Nebula Award this year. It is classic space opera. Here is the publisher's summary.

Thousands of years ago, artifacts of the early space age were lost to rising oceans and widespread turmoil. Garnett Baylee devoted his life to finding them, only to give up hope. Then, in the wake of his death, one was found in his home, raising tantalizing questions. Had he succeeded after all? Why had he kept it a secret? And where is the rest of the Apollo cache?

Antiquities dealer Alex Benedict and his pilot, Chase Kolpath, have gone to Earth to learn the truth. But the trail seems to have gone cold, so they head back home to be present when the Capella, the interstellar transport that vanished eleven years earlier in a time/space warp, is expected to reappear. With a window of only a few hours, rescuing it is of the utmost importance. Twenty-six hundred passengers—including Alex’s uncle, Gabriel Benedict, the man who raised him—are on board.

Alex now finds his attention divided between finding the artifacts and anticipating the rescue of the Capella. But time won’t allow him to do both. As the deadline for the Capella’s reappearance draws near, Alex fears that the puzzle of the artifacts will be lost yet again. But Alex Benedict never forgets and never gives up—and another day will soon come around...

This book was a very enjoyable read. It didn't have any moments that made me drop my jaw in awe, but one of the two main plot arcs did take me by surprise. The ambush was very well done too. All the foreshadowing was there, I just didn't put the clues together to come up with the correct conclusion. I am so cynical of certain character types I was sure one of them had done something nefarious. That sort of blinded me as to what was really going on, and when the plot arc reached its climax I was taken completely off guard. I can't say any more or it'll go into spoiler territory and that's not what I do. I'll just say, "Well played Mr. McDevitt, well played."

The other plot arc, for this book seemed two novellas in one binding, had a couple of moments that put me on the edge of my seat impatiently waiting to see what happens. It was good old-fashioned risk suspense. It worked like this. The odds say they have a 90% chance of making it - providing all the assumptions are correct. It's far from certain the assumptions are even valid let alone correct. The real odds may be less than 50-50. No one can tell with any certainty. Part of the uncertainty has to do with the nature of quantum mechanics. The other part in the fact no one has ever done anything like this before. That too was well played, though personally I'd have liked more good hard theoretical science in the arc - but that's just me and this is space opera I'm reviewing.

I found no issues with the characters in the story. The main characters are well-developed after six previous books, but fortunately Mr. McDevitt did not drag me through the regurgitation of past events. This book stands well on its own. A few characters were stereotypical, but they were well done with just enough nuance in their mannerisms to make them real. At the end, I felt some of the stereotyping was done to mislead me as per my comment two paragraphs above. If that was indeed the case, it's the mark of a very good writer. But don't take me opinion as gospel. Just look at all the Nebula nominations Jack McDevitt has received in his writing career: no opinion necessary. He is that caliber of writer.

The issue I am going to take with this book is on the book cover. Not the art, but the quote by Stephen King. Jack McDevitt is not "the logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clark" - period. That Stephen King would say such a thing shows how much he needs to stick to the horror genre. When I see a comment like King's, I remember reading the end of 2010: Odyssey Two. I am not exaggerating when I say it made me stop, stare off into the distance, and try to imagine what Arthur C. Clarke had just written. Then there is Issac Asimov whose uncanny ability to foresee how technology would impact human society awed a generation. Everyone knows his three laws of robotics, and that's just one example of the man's ability to logically extrapolate technology's impact on the human race. Jack McDevitt isn't either of these Sci-Fi giants. There is nothing scientifically awe-inspiring in this book. The science is fantasy for the most part, and relies on a benighted vision of the universe unsupported by current theory. Some would even say current theories have proven it can't exist at all as described in the book. That is why I can't condone the quote. I understand it's not Jack McDevitt's doing, and perhaps some of his other books are worthy of Clarke or Asimov. I wouldn't know. This is the only book of his I've read. But the quote on this book's cover is ridiculous marketing hyperbole. Had this book not made the Nebula list, that quote would have made me pass it by on any shelf. I prefer hard science in my fiction, and when I see an obvious space opera with a quote like that affixed to it, I know it's just going to let me down.

But honestly, I don't mean to run Jack McDevitt down. The quote is not his doing and I know authors very seldom get any say in the covers that go onto their book. Mr. McDevitt is a damn good writer. Books are about characters and their interactions, not technology or science. In that regard, his characters are first-rate and his plots purposeful. His wordsmithing is a pleasure to consume. Within those parameters, the quote is valid and you'll definitely enjoy this book.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Galaxy Survey Expedition One - Survey Complete

I ran out of coffee 137 light years out from Kaleo and the nearest source on Martinez Platform. I managed to survey three more systems, only one of which had anything of interest, before the withdrawal symptoms became too much. I made the last four jumps hoping the jitters in my hand didn't inadvertently plunge the ship into a plasma monster.

[caption id="attachment_4901" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]HIP 101646 HIP 101646[/caption]

Speaking of plasma monsters, I got a chance to see a really big one up close and personal. HIP 101646 was near enough my course I decided to pay it a visit. The only star in the system is a spectral type A0 V giant nearly twice the size of Sol and more than twice the mass. The star itself has been known since the 20th century. Being large and bright, it was easily picked up by Earth-based telescopes. Subsequent parallax measurements showed it to be just over 400 light years from home. In orbit around this behemoth were three high metal content planets, but the real jewels of the system were the six gas giants, four of which were ringed. Half of these rings were metal rich or at least predominantly metallic. Even the large moon of the fifth and first ringless gas giant had a metal rich ring, itself being a high metal content world. The gas giant itself harbored water-based life.

I visited a couple other interesting systems during my last week out, but I really need to get to the results. That's what folks are really interested in. So let's go back and visit the three systems I made income predictions about and see how close I came to predicting my actual haul. Then I'll tell you about my most profitable system.

In my fourth log entry, I outlined what a system like WREDGUIA DX-O B47-1 would bring in. You can click on the system name link to bring up its video catalog entry. As a refresher, this was a trinary system where I discovered four terraforming candidate planets orbiting the main star. I estimated the system would be worth a minimum of 110,400 credits and as much as 150,750 credits. I was a little off on the maximum payout. This was my second most valuable survey.

[caption id="attachment_4918" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]WREDGUIA DX-O B47-1 Payout WREDGUIA DX-O B47-1 Payout[/caption]

In the same weekly log entry, I also discussed WREDGUIA HD-N B48-1 (link to video catalog entry.) This was a binary star system where all 14 planets orbiting the star themselves were high metal content worlds, and one lone gas giant orbited both stars. It was less than half the value of WREDGUIA HD-N B48-1, but it still brought in a tidy profit.

[caption id="attachment_4921" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]WREDGUIA HD-N B48-1 Payout WREDGUIA HD-N B48-1 Payout[/caption]

I went into quite a lot of detail on the next system in my log entry last week on why one should survey and not just prospect. WREDGUIA FB-F D11-42 was the star system where the initial scan was not very promising. There were 19 astronomical objects found by the advanced scanner, but they were not orbiting the main G class star. They were a long way off (65k plus light seconds) orbiting the two red dwarf companions. My point with this system is that prospector mentality would have passed on the 13 high metal content planets around those two red dwarfs. I estimated I could make up to 84,750 credits as the first pilot to survey them. I didn't make quite that much, but I still made more than if I'd have been a prospector rather than a surveyor.

[caption id="attachment_4922" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]WREDGUIA FB-F D11-42 Payout WREDGUIA FB-F D11-42 Payout[/caption]

But those three system were not my highest grossing survey result. That goes to a system I was not the first to survey: WREDGUIA RO-G C24-18. This system was also in my fourth week results and mentioned in that log entry. This system had several high metal content worlds and a terraforming candidate orbiting the main star, and a red dwarf companion at distance. It was the red dwarf companion that held the real surprise of 8 high metal planets with three terraforming candidates itself! The total haul from that system was nearly 200,000 credits.

[caption id="attachment_4923" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]WREDGUIA RO-G C24-18 Payout WREDGUIA RO-G C24-18 Payout[/caption]

And last but not least, they total profit from Galaxy Survey Expedition One was 2,819,534 credits, which more than doubled my cash on hand. That doesn't seem like a lot of credits for six weeks worth of hard work. And to tell truth, I could have made much more conducting rare trades. But then I'd have had to put up with idiots. 'nuf said?

Actually, no, not enough said. In six weeks I surveyed 77 systems. Of those 77 systems, I was the first pilot to survey all or part of 29 of those systems. That's over a third of the whole in an area that's already been crisscrossed by many prospectors. That's a lot of navigational hazards in need of refined survey. If humankind is ever to find enough room to leave each other in peace, we need to know exactly what's out there and where exactly it is. That's why I do it. So in the future we can all have a home we don't need to carve out of someone else's hide. Perhaps I'm too much an optimist, but hope is better than despair.

So now I am comfortably docked in Martinez Platform and thinking about what I'm going to do next. I honestly don't know. My heart says to head back out into the unknown. My head says I could be more effective with a longer range survey ship like the Asp. I could afford an Asp now, but it still wouldn't have the top of the line gear I'd want. And my trusty Cobra Mark III performed exceptionally on this expedition. You know, I can always try my hand at mining. I've not tried that yet. My Cobra would be just the ship for that. I'll have to add that to my consideration list. Regardless of what I choose to do, I've earned some down time. I'm going to take it. There aren't so many people here they'll drive me crazy. For now, I'm just going to bask in the glory of being a Trailblazer.

[gallery columns="2" size="medium" type="rectangular" ids="4906,4907"]

Fly careful.