Showing posts from July, 2005

Home Archaeology: Star Trek and Beyond

So we're unpacking, and I run across an old book - Net Trek - Your Guide to Trek Life in Cyberspace. This was a 400-page paper book published in 1995 with details on Star Trek Web sites. I knew that I'd had my site and pages listed, but I'd forgotten that the reason I had the book is that they'd profiled me and sent me free copies. Here's what I had to say to the world circa 1995:

Joshua Sean Bell

Age 21; Calgary, Alberta

Maintains mini-FAQs on Trek tech and a Website (

Time [online]: 70 hrs/week

Other Interests: NarniaMUSH, ASCII art newsgroups, and emailing "my girlfriend who’s in Texas"

Favorite Episode: "Yesterday’s Enterprise" [TNG] and "Best of Both Worlds, Part I" [TNG]

Mission Statement: "I’d avoided Star Trek on the Net for ages but eventually got sucked into when I got a copy of the TNG Technical Manual. Started writing and eventually cam up with my Mini-FAQ…

Time vs. Money

(Written Spring 1994)

Yes, it's an age-old equation. But specifically I'm talking about the interesting transition that I can see happened to me about three years ago. I crossed the boundary where my gating factor on doing most of what I'd like is time, not money. Previously (think: teenage/young adult years), limiting factors were "I can't afford that!". Now the limiting factor is "I don't have time for that!"

Take software. Previously, I often lusted after a new game or other piece of software. Now I own games that I will never play, simply due to time. I even buy some of them - like Flight Simulator 2004 - just in case. It's silly - I have to stop doing it. I keep downloading cool games (see the Marathon entry) when it's really just meaning I will never finish other projects.

(It's times like this that I can feel myself dying. It's terrifying.)

There's a thread going on about how a modded the XBox is cheaper than a Media C…

Found on my hard drive: SF Plot Seed

I just moved and traded in my old desktop for a new notebook. I've copied everything over from the old hard drive, and now it's time for some archaeology while I sift through old files and projects.
Here's one I'd barely started - a plot seed for an SF novel with working title, "The Race". From what I can recall, the plot synopsis was that life was discovered on Europa in 2013, kicking off a race between countries, corporations and individuals to build a follow-on mission. Looks like I wrote this back in 1999.
From these notes, I think the point of the story was that accelerating technology was making everything unpredictable as the race went on. You'd have unmanned missions controlled from Earth, manned missions, manned missions with augmented humans, static AI and self-modifying AI. I'm not sure what the idea was beyond that, though.Exterior, space: unmanned probe lands on Europa and deploys a heater/miner, which burrows under the ice and


Drink Recipe

2 oz light rum
1/2 oz lime juice
4 oz cream soda
1/2 tsp cherry Kool-Aid powderDirections
Shake rum and lime juice with ice, then pour into a highball glass. Add cream soda, then sprinkle the Kool-Aid powder on top. Serve with a spoon for mixing and a straw for drinking.

Traveller Map

One of my recent hobby projects:
Traveller MapInspired by Google Maps, and a obsession (put on hold for 20 years) with the Science Fiction RPG "Traveller".

Paper and Pencil Space Combat Game


On my way to work this morning, I had an unprovoked flashback to a paper and pencil space combat game that I played with some of my classmates when I was in Grade 6 (circa 1982-83). It played like Space War or Asteroids!, but let two players simulate space combat on a piece of paper with pencils - just the technology available to us during classes at the time.

I did some preliminary Google searches, but I'm probably missing the right search terms. So I wrote up the rules as I remembered them (plus some gaming formalisms I've picked up over the years). You can find them here:

Paper and Pencil Space Combat Game

I think I'll have to wait about 6 months before I teach Caspian how to play. But then again, he picked up the concept of Pac Man enough to play it "live action" in a store a few months ago - we took turns being Pac Man and the Monster.


So there was a C# coding contest over at - basically, solve a linear equation for X. I'd idly coded up half the entry for it - the recursive descent parser for the equation syntax - and then got stuck.
My idea was to write a general equation balancer - e.g. if the equation was "2x = 6", balance it to be "x = 6 / 2" then once the variable was isolated on the left side, evaluate the right. I had a few pages worth of algorithms sketched out for the balancing, but then realized that this was too complicated - there must be a simpler solution. So I tabled it, and was busy with other things.
Once the results were announced I went back. D'oh! If you have g(x) = h(x) (and g and h are linear functions of x, i.e. no powers of x other than 1 or 0), then create f(x) = g(x) - h(x), and x = f(0) / (f(0) - f(1)). High-school math I've apparently long forgotten. And was too dumb to search for.
Ah well. …

Acceleration Slowing?

Interesting article on
Summary: Jonathan Huebner thinks that the rate of innovation has been slowing since the late 1800's, rather than accelerating.
Interesting stuff. The meta-takeaway is more visceral, though: it wouldn't just be unfortunate that technological advancements slow or halt, but the affect that would have on society - a new dark age.
I generally disagree with the interpretations of observations that Huebner makes, though. As Kurzweil and Drexler point out, if we hit key advancements (transhuman intelligence, nanotech) at any point, the ballgame changes substantially. It's a tipping point as big as the discovery of stone tools, fire, or agriculture. And those things don't follow simple trend lines.