Isaac Asimov, D-rings, Fusion, and Predictions

You’ve heard of the old axiom of write what you know. Don’t buy into it. Issac Asimov was a teacher at a college and wrote Science Fiction. If you have not read his books you should try some. He wrote over 200 books, but many were hard science books.

He wrote about space ships traveling between star systems before a man was put into orbit. Yet he did not drive a car nor would he fly in an air plane. He past away in 1992 so there were airplanes and car around during his life.

He wrote about artificial intelligence, except his AIs had arms and legs and we called them robots or androids. Yet he was a chemistry teacher. I have yet to see anyone propose forcing developers to incorporate the three laws of robotics into AIs.

He wrote about young people on Mars. See the Lucky Star books. These books were written back in the nineteen fifties and are said to base the main character on the Lone Ranger. The story is set 7000 years after 1944. That is a lack of imagination. I don’t know if it was the author thought that the public would not believe that Mars could be settled in reasonable time frame. It only took 200 years to establish a permanent settlement in America. And, back then, open ocean ship travel was as risky and dangerous as space travel is today.

In his Caves of Steel series of books he wrote about man made covered cities. He knew big cities from living in New York. But the New York he grew up in was not as crowded as it is today. You have to assume that they had conquered disease in those futuristic stories.

Back in the fifties using fusion (putting atoms together), the opposite of fission (splitting atoms apart), for generating cheap power was just twenty years away. It’s now thirty years away.

What about D-rings? In the foundation series of books he has a futuristic civilization that has cheap power. These were written in the nineteen fifties so the power was atomic based, but in place of reactor piles he used D-rings. In the 1930s the first man made radioactive particles were generated by cyclotrons. Inside a cyclotron are two container shaped like a half a pancake. The insides of the containers are drawn down to a high vacuum. At the time it seemed possible to make a power generator out of them. Instead we are still using reactor based on the 1950s style reactor pile design.

In the Asimov books the D-ring power generators last for thousands of years. In real life reactors last twenty to thirty years, but are granted extensions. The still wear out and we haven’t figured out what to do with them when we junk them out.

Predicting the future is hard. There are always black swans. And people, even science fiction writers, can have narrow vision. Two years ago they were selling a rifle that was guaranteed not to miss the target under a set of conditions. How’s that going to mess up your space opera if the guy that shoots first always hit his target? Just point your gun and the computer will do the work.

Complimentary add;

The great bread experiment goes on.
This month I used a recipe that called for one cup plus three tablespoons of water to three cups plus one quarter cup of flour. Not quite there but close.

Pork Fried Rice

1 tablespoon cooking oil or butter
1 (6 ounce) boneless pork loin or pork chop (whatever is on sale), cut into small pieces (about 1/2 to 1/4 inch square)

2 or 3 green onions, chopped (about the same size as the pork)
1 or 2 eggs, beaten

2 cups cooked rice (we had a big family and 1 cup of rice cooks up to 2 cups cooked rice) 

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook rice and set aside.
  2. Beat eggs in small bowl, set aside.
  3. Add oil or melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Mother always used the big 12 inch cast iron skillet.
  4. Add pork, green onions and cook until pork is cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes.
  5. Add eggs and scramble until eggs are set.
  6. Stir in rice, chop up omelet and stir until rice is heated through, 7 to 10 minutes.

Write on, stay strong and try an old classic science fiction book.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Rushed Ending and Making Bread (yes I’m talking about a loaf of bread)

My copy editor said my story ending is rushed. When you pay someone for comments you better consider those comments. I thought I wrapped the ending up with a bow in one chapter.

The problem is the heroine has been trapped in a mine all story long and has no communication with the above ground world. While the story is not strictly first person, how would she know what is going on outside the mine? The bad guys control the communication with the surface. They know what is coming. I don’t want a covenant way for the heroine to find out what happened in the past and on the surface.

I have to rewrite the story ending and that is going to be a pain. The heroine does not have X-ray vision or other superpowers. I can’t hand her the information on a silver platter. I am playing by the rules. No deus ex machina. This is a pain.

What do you, the reader, want in an ending? Do you want a quick ending? Do you want it to end with hugs and kisses? Do you want every last plot line tied up? Or can I leave some things for the next book? Write me or leave comments.

The ad, always the ad

Isolation bread

In a previous blog I mentioned that I have been making bread. The loaves are less than mediocre. I’m not looking for a great loaf of bread, but I do want a good loaf. Currently the loaves are tough and crumble when sliced. The bread taste OK, but something is wrong.

There is an old rule for cooks: In cooking you follow your taste; In baking you follow the recipe.

So, I researched for light bread machine bread recipes. I got three that were at the top of the search results. I tried them. It helped, but it didn’t help much.

The standard recipes for bread machine bread calls for one cup of water for three cups of flour. The first recipe called for one cup of water for two cups of flour per cup of water.

With two cups of flour the loaf came out a little better and was softer, but the top of the loaf did not get done. This happened twice.

In this time of stay at home I can not get all the ingredients the recipes call for. The store is out of bread flour. I have some store brand (regular) flour and I have to make the best of it. Many recipes call for the little packets of yeast, either quick rise or bread machine yeast. Those packets coast more than a loaf of store bread and the store is out of the packets and has been for weeks. I was able to get a block of Red Star Active Dry Yeast. It cost about the same as six foil packets (one packet equals 2 teaspoons of yeast). I’ve got enough yeast to last years, but yeast does not last that long so I need to use it up.

I am experimenting. That means things fail and bread, or the bad imitation of bread, gets thrown out. First experiments were to figure out if active dry yeast needed to be proofed before being added to the bread machine. It looks like the active dry yeast can be added to the bottom of the bread machine pan along with the water and sugar as long as the salt is added on top of the flour. Salt kills the yeast, but the bread needs salt in the dough.

Some people rave about how bread taste better when you use butter in place of oil. I have tried it both ways. Not a noticeable difference in the crumbling of the bread or the fluffiness of the inside of the bread.

There are only five ingredients in bread. That’s five things that I can change the amounts of, or try substitutions for, but I record the difference the changes make. You have to keep straight what did what, and your memory is not good enough.

So far I have used to much yeast and blown the top off one loaf of bread. I have used to much water (or more water that is standard) and gotten a sunken undone top of the loaf. I have made a loaf without salt and it did not make much difference. I have made dough in the machine then placed the dough in a pan and baked the loaf in the oven. I did it a second time and kneaded the dough ten minutes before placing it in the pan (it was still dense and not to good). Why is the loaf dense and crumbles when I cut it? More disasters to come.

If at first you don’t success, try changing something, but keep records so you can track what change gave you what results and when it goes right you know what works.

Stay strong, write on, and bake, bake, bake.
Professor Hyram Voltage.

Lists and Making My writing Better

You’ve heard the sayings; Those that don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them, and; The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different response.

To stop the insanity I make lists of things that readers, editors, and I have found wrong with my writing.

I tell you the computer is out to get me. On the check list I go through before sending a manuscript to an editor, Spell Check is at the top and the bottom. The very last thing on the list is spell check.

The last manuscript I sent to an editor had several spelling errors. Not the wrong word that was close to the right word. No, plain spelling errors that the word processor red underlined. I use two spell checkers and the words were wrong in both.

It has to be enemy action. I have autocorrect turned off and I ran two spell checks. Plus I use two different spell checker (that don’t always agree with each other) so there must be a leak in the program or computer.

As I am going through the corrections the editor made to the manuscript I list the error she found. It’s a big list. Some of the problems are grammar, I have a problem with commas. So the list has a section bugging me to go study the grammar books and sites on how to use a comma.

It takes a lot of search and replace to go through the list of my common errors. But I go through each item on the list.

I do it for you, the reader. Hour after hour of slugging it out so you have a good readable story.

I have been to book signing where the author corrected an error in his hard bound book with a pen and he signed the correction. This guy had written dozens of books and stories. He was published by a big name publisher, and he was embarrassed by the error. I’m a small time author, the trolls don’t cut me any slack.

Editing is a time suck. Editing is hard, hard, hard, but I do it for you.

Once again, an ad for my book. The second one is coming soon.

Green pancakes and bacon


1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 drops green food coloring
1 tablespoon olive oil plus some for the skillet


Add to a large plastic bag the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Shake dry ingredients together.
In a large bowl, beat the egg. Add milk, olive oil, green food coloring, and vanilla and beat together.
Dump dry ingredients into bowl on top of wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated (it will have lumps). If the batter seems too thick, add more of the milk, a little at a time.
Place a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.
Add dash of olive oil to skillet.
Pour or spoon about 3/4 cup of the batter onto the skillet per pancake.
Cook until bubbles break the surface of the pancake, and the underside is golden brown, about 3 minutes. The time depends on how hot the skillet is.
Flip with a spatula and cook about 1 minute more on the second side. Remove pancake from pan and place on a plate.
Repeat until you have enough for breakfast.
Excess batter can be stored, covered and sealed, for a couple of days.

What if it goes wrong? Relax, you haven’t wasted expensive ingredients. If the first pancake is dry then add a little (more than a drop and less than a teaspoon full) of milk to the bowl and stir. If the pancake is too thin then add a little flour and a pinch of baking powder to the bowl. Stir and try again.

No syrup, try them dry or make the pancake very thin with too much milk and call them crapes. Use a little jelly in place of the maple syrup. Honey is good to on top of pancakes. Cinnamon and sugar is good. Even try a dash of paprika.

Two pancakes, two strips of bacon, and a glass of orange juice. That’s a special breakfast, for this special time.

Stay strong, write on, and edit.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Looking for a Good Fantasy Story?

I’m in the middle of editing a book. It’s hard work and I don’t have much time to read (I’m suppose to be editing my book not procrastinating).

So try The Lord Darcy series by Randall Garrett. I suggest ‘Murder & Magic’, Too ‘Many Magicians’, and Lord Darcy Investigates. These books were written in the 1960s, but feature and alternate history long before flood of current alternate history books. It also could be called Steampunk, but these books were written before Steampunk was thought of.

The magic in the stories is a system and is not Deus ex machina. It has rules and the stories had to be thought out to follow those rules. I do not like the base rule that a magic user had to be born with the talent. Oh well that’s a personal preference and does not detract from a good story.

Now if you’re strictly a science fiction reader try Mack Reynolds / Dean Ing ‘Home Sweet Home”. Or try Christopher Anvil. Many of his stories explore unintended consequences.

Unintended consequences, that’s when something sounds so good and it’s cheap we do it. Besides how could it go wrong? California, in 1980s went from teaching Phonics (to help reading) in school to mandating the teaching of Natural Language reading. It took them ten years and tying for last place among states in school children reading ability scores before they went back to Phonics. Of course California is a liberal state and teachers teach how they want to not to state mandates, so children are taught with methods that are dubious in their results. We have a generation of people in and from California that can’t read well, but it’s not a worry, we have audio books and cell phones. Who needs to read. Us authors that’s who. I need to publish audio books.

Got a story or author you like. Let me know.

Boring old add;

The serious side of recipes

The news has stories of food shortages. We have had outages, but in the last 100 years we have not had a time where you could get something to eat. We have had soup kitchens and bread lines, but what if there is no food at any price?

Living in earth quake country I have a two week supply of food. My friends have drawn down their stock piles and that may be a bad thing. Now is the time to think about stocking up on food that does not need refrigeration and can be stored for a long time. If everyone does that then we will never need it.

Oatmeal, canned tuna fish, crackers, flour, powered milk, are basics and can be stored for a long time. Water is taken for granted, but if it stops you are in trouble. Rice, beans (canned and raw), that will get used in a year anyway. No one will know you stocked up and you can laugh at yourself a year from now for doing it.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage