David M. Kelly

Character-based SF and more…

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A while back I wrote about how the U.S. government is handing millions of dollars over to private fruit growers in Florida to fund research that the fruit growers should pay for. Well now there’s another example closer to home. The Canadian government just announced it is “investing” $6.7 million in “Earth Observation products”; euphemism for giving more large cash handouts to private companies.

According to the write up twelve (12) companies will receive contracts all suspiciously around the $550, 000 mark. So closely aligned are these figures, you might almost wonder if there is some kind of extra scrutiny that comes into play around the $600, 000 mark that they want to avoid. Not only that, but some of the numbers are laughably over-precise: $568,260.05, $551,871.95 and $537,994.29 are just some examples.

The projects include a pipeline monitoring system, which the announcement clearly indicates will benefit “pipeline developers and operators” with the development being carried out by a private company in BC. There’s also a rapid response monitoring system for mines, oil and gas fields being awarded to another BC company, also a direct benefit to those “poor” resource industries. In fact there are quite a few of these systems that benefit “oil and gas and mining companies” along with “pipeline developers and operators”, so many in fact that you’d think that those companies didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Several projects directly benefit the Forestry industry too.

One project is so blatant that it beggars belief – “Development of a Commercial End-to-End Interferometric Processing Capability for Environmental Monitoring” which is being awarded to PCI Geomatics, in Quebec. Imagine that, the Canadian government is paying a private company to develop a commercial product from which the company receives all the benefit!

If any of this seems to smell, that’s because it does. It stinks of graft. It stinks of corruption deep at the heart of the Canadian government, whether dressed up as “scientific research contracts” or any other misleading phrase. I wonder how much scrutiny the owners and operators of these companies could stand up to.


A few days ago I saw this news story. It discusses how SpaceX is challenging a patent Blue Origin has obtained on “Sea landing of space launch vehicles”.

Not only has SpaceX already carried out test landings at sea, but this concept has been detailed several times previously by other groups, including NASA and the Russian space program. So to grant a patent in this case is rather ridiculous. For a patent to be awarded, the subject is supposed to be “useful, novel and non obvious”, but these seems to be entirely absent from the Blue Origin claim.

As others who work in the IT field will know, this kind of patent troll is all too familiar. The only people to gain from this will be Continue reading

A recent article announced that the U.S. Government is going to provide $25 million per year (up to $125 million) plus millions in other funding to fund research in to a cure for Citrus Greening. A disease currently threatening the citrus industry, especially in Florida where almost all of the orange groves are infected to some extent.

The infection is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, a form of lice, that feed on the trees and infect them with bacteria, turning the fruit sour and ultimately killing the trees. As a result the citrus industry is facing it’s lowest crop yields in twenty-nine years.

According to the article the citrus industry in Florida alone is worth $9 billion and employs 75,000 people.

So shouldn’t the citrus industry itself be funding this research? They’re the ones who will ultimately benefit after all and $25 million represents a meager quarter of a percent of the industry’s value.

What this amounts to is simply your hard-earned tax dollars being handed over to private companies Continue reading

I read an interesting piece recently about how not teaching handwriting appears to lead to a lack of creativity and overall learning ability. The idea put forward is that the brain develops more pattern recognition ability and cognitive skills by learning to write the “old-fashioned” way. Tests carried out show that the brain’s learning centers are not activated to the same level in children that learn “writing” through tracing of letters or just by computer typing. Even more significantly the studies also show that these effects seem to cascade over time with children who aren’t taught handwriting skills performing at lower levels in later life.

In these days of Google-Almighty and the general vogue for making everything “easy,” we seem to have completely lost sight of Continue reading

After another successful launch and docking of the SpaceX Dragon capsule late last week the company appear to have established itself as a major player in the ground-to-LEO (Low Earth Orbit) sector of the space industry. The latest mission is the third flawless flight made by the California-based company to the International Space Station (ISS) using the combination of it’s Falcon 9 Launcher and the Dragon capsule.

Contrast this with the massive problem facing the U.S. since the loss of the Space Shuttle Continue reading

The Mars One project has announced that it’s planning to set-up “simulated” outposts here on Earth. During the announcement co-founder Bas Lansdorp said, “We are very eager to get started constructing actual hardware for our mission that is important for training future Mars One crews and preparing them for their life on Mars. We are going from theory to practice.”

While this sounds very exciting and forward thinking I’m afraid the skeptic inside me is shouting and waving big red flags Continue reading

This weeks “Cosmos“, featured an interesting segment on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. On the show they explained how the moon is the only other celestial body known to have rain and oceans, although these aren’t water based; instead they consist of ethane, methane and other hydrocarbons.

In another story a few days ago we see that scientists have detected what may be evidence of ripples on the hydrocarbon oceans on Titan, the first time Continue reading

When researching self-publishing and self-promotion it quickly becomes obvious that there’s a wealth of information out there. Although maybe “information” is the wrong term. Perhaps it’s fairer to say that there are a lot of words.

I’ve found that the sheer amount and diversity of opinions is overwhelming to the point of confusion. Not only that but the “signal to noise ratio” is very high; little of what’s written seems to offer any real hard facts. From what I can see, there’s no “secret” Continue reading

I just signed the petition “Jeff Bezos: Protect Amazon.com Users and Indie Publishing Authors from Bullying and Harassment by Removing Anonymity and Requiring Identity Verification for Reviewing and Forum Participation.”

I’m trying to help Todd Barselow, who started the petition, by getting five more people to join me. Will you sign it too?

Here’s the link: http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/jeff-bezos-protect-amazon-com-users-and-indie-publishing-authors-from-bullying-and-harassment-by-removing-anonymity-and-requiring-identity-verification-for-reviewing-and-forum-participation

It’s an issue that I think really matters. You can also read more about it by clicking here.

Thank you!

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