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Bruce Sterling (b. April 14): “Embrace your nerditude.”

14 Apr


Bruce Sterling, born 14 April 1954, is an American science fiction author who is best known for his novels and his work on the Mirrorshades anthology. This work helped to define the cyberpunk genre.


  1. Forget trying to pass for normal. Follow your geekdom. Embrace your nerditude.
  2. In a world so redolent with wonder, how can we allow ourselves to conduct our daily lives with so little insight, such absence of dignity?
  3. We’re so intelligent now that we’re too smart to survive. We’re so well informed that we lost all sense of meaning. We know the price of everything, but we’ve lost all sense of value. We have everyone under surveillance, but we’ve lost all sense of shame.
  4. If poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, science fiction writers are its court jesters. We are Wise Fools who can leap, caper, utter prophecies, and scratch ourselves in public. We can play with Big Ideas because the garish motley of our pulp origins make us seem harmless.
  5. The future is unwritten. There are best-case scenarios. There are worst-case scenarios. Both of them are great fun to write about if you’ re a science fiction novelist, but neither of them ever happens in the real world. What happens in the real world is always a sideways-case scenario. World-changing marvels to us, are only wallpaper to our children.

Dr Cowgirl will join you soon. Please assume the position.

30 Mar

lab sex - cropSex and back pain 

People with back pain are known for their grouchiness, and it is not helped if they are also starved for sex. Although sex makes serious demands on the spine, no one has taken the time to study how different sexual positions can accommo­date different back problems.

But Stuart McGill and Natalie Si­dorkewicz of the University of Waterloo in Canada rose to the challenge. They brought ten heterosexual couples with healthy spines into the lab and asked them to have sex using five randomly assigned intercourse positions.

These included two variations of the “missionary” position, where the man is on top of the woman and facing her; two variations of the “doggy” position, where the man is behind the woman on all-fours, and the “spoon”, which involves both participants lying cupped together on their sides. The last of these is often recommended by family doctors as the safest for sore backs.

missionary sex - cropMost back problems in younger folk are triggered by bending forward, a movement called flexion. But as people age, reaching up and back, known as extension, becomes a more common cause. The researchers wanted to see how various sexual positions differ­entially taxed the spine, so people would know what to avoid.

They used eight infra-red motion‑capture cameras to track the movements of reflective dots placed strategically on the participants’ bodies. The cameras monitored the movements for 20 sec­onds of sex in each position.

doggy sex - cropVolunteers were then observed while standing straight, bending forward, extending backwards, bending to each side and twisting at the waist. This was to establish their maximum range of motion, so that the strain involved in each sex position could be calculated.

When the data were crunched, the researchers found that – contrary to pop­ular belief – spooning was not a good idea for men with bending-induced lower back pain. Nor was a variant of the missionary position with the man supporting himself on his elbows.

durex - cropHolding himself up with his arms extended was a more spine-sparing option, along with one of the doggy variants. For men whose back problems are made worse by extending up and back, the opposite was true. A separate study on women with back problems is nearly complete.

The research, published in Spine, will be developed into a fuller guide to sexual positions. The team plans to study other options, such as the man lying on his back (the “cowgirl”). People with back pain find ways to do all sorts of activities, says Dr McGill, and sex should be no different. But five positions in one session is pretty arduous, he points out. “You can only do so many.”

~ courtesy The Economist, 13 September 2014

Douglas Adams (b. March 11): “I love the whooshing sound of deadlines as they go by.”

11 Mar

Douglas Adams, born 11 March 1952, died 11 May 2001, was an English writer who is best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series which sold over 15 million copies in his lifetime. It also became a television series, was adapted into several stage plays, comics, a computer game, and a feature film.

Quotes on writing:

  1. I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.
  2. I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.
  3. I tend not to read or watch Science Fiction, particularly not comedy Science Fiction. The point is that if it’s less good than what I do, there’s no point in reading it, if it’s better than what I do it makes me depressed. If it’s like something I’m intending to write I have to twist myself into knots trying to avoid it and if it’s like something I have written I feel ripped off. Simpler to read something else.

Linus Pauling (b. February 28): “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

28 Feb


“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”  

~ Linus Pauling, b. 28 February 1901


Charles Darwin (b. February 12): “A man who wastes time has not discovered the value of life.”

12 Feb


“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

~ Charles Darwin, b. 12 February 1809


Kala Sarpa: everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

30 Nov

“If the Sun and Moon would doubt,” poet William Blake once wrote, “they would immediately go out.”

As for me, there were times over the past 18 months when my own vision blurred, and I doubted whether I could write a book on Kala Sarpa that would do justice to its myth. But as it is with all writing of substance, it became a sadhana, and there was no choice but to finish the work. I hope students and practicing astrologers alike can now use it to shed light on what has always been a very dark subject.

~ Alan Annand

Paperback available at Amazon only, ebooks available at all online retailers:


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Neal Stephenson (b. October 31): “A good SF universe has coherence” & other quotes on writing

31 Oct

Neal Stephenson, born 31 October 1959, is an American writer of speculative fiction. He explores subjects such as mathematics, cryptography, philosophy, currency, and the history of science.

Quotes on writing:

  1. What’s hard, in hacking as in fiction, is not writing, it’s deciding what to write.
  2. My niche, to the extent that I’ve got one, seems to be writing about fairly recondite material, but trying to do it in a way that develops into an enjoyable and readable story.
  3. Good SF supplies a plausible, fully thought-out picture of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place. A good SF universe has a coherence and internal logic that makes sense to scientists and engineers.
  4. I was sort of going for broke with Snow Crash. I had tried to write stuff that was more conventional and that would be appealing to a large audience, and it didn’t work. I figured I would just go for broke, write something really weird, and not be so worried about whether it was a good career move or not.
  5. SF has changed over the span of time I am talking about—from the 1950s (the era of the development of nuclear power, jet airplanes, the space race, and the computer) to now. Speaking broadly, the techno-optimism of the Golden Age of SF has given way to fiction written in a generally darker, more sceptical and ambiguous tone.
  6. When I read a novel that I really like, I feel as if I am in direct, personal communication with the author. I feel as if the author and I are on the same wavelength mentally, that we have a lot in common with each other, and that we could have an interesting conversation, or even a friendship, if the circumstances permitted it. When the novel comes to an end, I feel a certain letdown, a loss of contact. It is natural to want to recapture that feeling by reading other works by the same author, or by corresponding with him/her directly.
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