Simon’s Backup Weblog


Fiction Snippet: The Railways Up On Wherever

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 31, 2006

Adrian had built the railway, and the train.

Well, when I say “built”, he’d actually programmed a fab with a handful of specifications and a few diagrams, which had then programmed a bunch of robots, which had gone on to configure a pile of assemblers. While he slept the sleep of the just, the machines scavenged the middens for metal, and had gone to work. The next morning a Shay patent steam locomotive and a handful of wagons stood on two parallel lines of steel that ran out over the plain, around the great midden and off into the distance.

“Where does it go?” someone asked.

It was at that point Adrian realised that he’d forgotten to tell the machines when to stop.

There’s a good reason why we only use machines like this off world, and put in safeguards to avoid self-replication. Someone once called it the “wishes problem”. Give the genie your three wishes, and he’d quickly find the loophole. Give a fab a bad program, and you’d be left with a scene that made The Sorcerer’s Apprentice look like a best case scenario. Luckily for the universe our machines wear out quickly when you work them hard, and Adrian wouldn’t be responsible for a moon made of railway tracks.

“Out there…” He waved a hand at the empty horizon.

A couple of weeks later the robots were dead, leaving a legacy of several hundred miles of track, looped around the middens and out to the mountainous atmosphere machines. You had to hand it to our predecessors. Those that hadn’t burnt out in Matrioshka catastrophes certainly thought big, building machines that lasted millions of years.

We were just the scavengers, picking over the bones of what they had left behind. But we did have a nice shiny Shay to do it with. We’d be able to explore the great middens in style – once we’d worked out how to get a steam engine running on a old cold moon, that had been leached of pretty much anything organic by those ancient terraforming machines.

Home again…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 30, 2006

…and the Virgin upgrade fairy smiled on us and our collections of air miles, so we got a decent night’s kip. We helped that along with the usual trick of getting the last plane out and spending the day tiring ourselves out (this time touring Manhattan Island by tower and by bus).

Normal blogging to be resumed shortly (jet lag permitting)

Google are teh winnurs..

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 25, 2006

..at least in the web advertising space. I just spotted a Google Adwords advertisement for MSN Search…

MSN does the Google

You know you’ve won when the competition sees you as the best way of getting to their target audience.

I still don’t think Google advertising is an adequate substitute for a business model…

Pink Mountain

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 23, 2006

Pink Mountain

Sunset colours on Mount Rainier, photographed from the Dogwood Park viewpoint. A lovely evening view…

Mount Rainier, Washington
May 2006

“My Other Car Is An X-Wing”

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 22, 2006

Star Wars CarStar Wars Car Star Wars Car
Star Wars Car Star Wars Car
A Flickr set of a Star Wars art car, spotted in Alki, near Seattle. I suspect that it was Red 5

Panda Nursing

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 21, 2006

Panda Nursing
Originally uploaded by sbisson.

Baby panda nursing at San Diego Zoo.

San Diego
May 2006

Puget Sunset

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 21, 2006

Puget Sunset
Originally uploaded by sbisson.

Sunset over Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula, from Alki Point.

Seattle
May 2006

Seattle Evening Rainbow

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 21, 2006

Seattle Evening Rainbow
Originally uploaded by sbisson.

Sunset illuminated rainbow over Seattle, from Alki Point.

Seattle
May 2006

Pleasant ways to spend an evening in San Diego…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 17, 2006

…sitting on a boat going round the arbour discussing all the really nasty things that could happen in the next few years with Vernor Vinge and Peter Biddle, all the while watching Navy SEALs jump out of helicopters into the sea, and photographing two generations of stealth ships…

We live in interesting (if extremely scary) times…

All life is encapsulated in Bond, James Bond…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 16, 2006

Elon Musk of SpaceX at FiRe on the fact that all the Falcon launches until 2008 will be from a small tropical island:

“I feel like I should have a small white cat”.

wonders if he has minions…

Woo… live-blogging conferences now…

Next Page »