James R. Strickland, Author
News (RSS), and Book Reviews(RSS).

01/26/2016 07:19pm Blog Entry

In my opinion, the usual plumbing analogy for how conductors work does more harm than good. Electrons do not flow. They are stripped from one atom and stuffed onto its nearest neighbor, quite slowly. Since atoms are very, very close together in conductors, this means the net /charge/ flows through the wire, somewhere close to the speed of light.

Even charges are not like water in a pipe. Charges are relative. Water isn't, really. You're either wet or you ain't.

It seems to me that electronics are much, much less confusing when you learn a little of the physics involved, so you can see what the electrons /are/ doing, and what you're really measuring. Doubly so when you can think about the physics to understand more about electronics and not be led up the garden path by a bad analogy.

There are places where electrons do flow like water: inside vacuum tubes. Ironically, this is where the water analogy breaks down the worst, because the electron flow is /backwards/ to the direction the tube conducts current. It took me a long time to get my head around them.

-JRS

01/18/2016 10:22pm Blog Entry

The Force Slumbers

In terms of story, after nearly forty years, the Star Wars franchise has passed from the hands of its savant creator, who spent the rest of his career not understanding how the original worked, to the hands of chimpanzees. Disappointing. There are good characters in there, but we hardly get to know them because the movie is paced so badly. Slow scenes where there should be fast ones, fast scenes where some character development and world building might have been good, and don't get me started on the fan service. Please JJ, let someone else direct the next one. More importantly, hire a writer who knows how to tell a coherent story.

01/16/2016 12:17pm Blog Entry

Having now read Persig and Wilson, and in preparation for my journey into Hesse, I've begun to think that if you want to understand the culture of today, you have to first understand the counter culture of 50 years ago. (Egad).  I very much suspect that the culture of today is powered by the same dynamic tension that spawned culture and counter-culture then.

I also had no real idea that I was reading counter-culture authors, until I read that Hesse was made popular in the U.S. after his death by Colin Wilson and Timothy Leary. I probably should have guessed.

-JRS

01/14/2016 04:41pm Blog Entry

Machine Language in video game ad terms

In order to write a program, you need variables, and objects, and memory management.
In machine language, you haven't got all that.
What you've got is bananas and underwear!
(or memory, opcodes, and data, take your pick.)

I can't find the commercial anymore, but I /think/ it was for a video game based on the Jungle Book. The narrator was a sound-alike for R. Lee Ermey.

11/27/2015 01:41pm Blog Entry

Taos Toolbox 2016

Some years ago (2011, to be precise) friend Jeff and I went to Taos Toolbox, then at the Taos ski area in New Mexico, taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress. It was, frankly awesome. I wrote about it at length here. Most of my classmates (unlike me) have had their work published much more readily than they enjoyed previously. It was also a lot of fun, albeit a ton of work in a short timeframe. I bring this up now because Taos Toolbox 2016's applications period begins December 1, 2015. The 2016 installment is coming. Same instructors, same format, slightly different location: Angelfire, NM, 25 miles away. So if you are a writer with some chops who is still reaching for the next level, if you want your writing to go deeper and further than it could before, if you want truly enlightening instruction from two veteran science fiction authors, and a workshop experience you can't get outside of a university (and perhaps not even there) go to the Taos Toolbox Website read up, and apply. You won't regret it. -JRS

11/20/2015 04:08pm Blog Entry

Amusements in language:

If you only have one leg, can you save money buying a pant?
Seriously, do you need a /pair/ of pants if you have only the one leg?
Maybe so.  After all, it's a pair of underwear, a pair of boxers, a pair of briefs.
I think they count butt-cheeks.  Consider. It's a /pair/ of panties, but /a/ thong.
Now we're getting someplace.

Still working on the technical book. Nothing much to report.

-JRS

09/15/2015 05:52pm Blog Entry

Physics

The deeper I dig into physics (yay, another amateur physicist) the more I think that physics should be taught starting out with quantum theory and move upward to Newton, as it is in nature, rather than from Newton to quantum theory as it was discovered. Or perhaps start with Newtonian mechanics and then take the deep dive to explain Newton. Right now I'm finding it easier to understand Bohr's orbitals model by knowing the electron spin and so forth that lie beneath than to simply memorize Bohr. It may be that I don't understand enough to understand how little I understand. Or I'm just weird. -JRS

08/28/2015 03:31pm Blog Entry

Just a quick update.

As part of a current project I'm not at liberty to discuss in such a public forum (when it's released, getting me to shut up about it will be the challenge) I was forced to poke into the guts of the Arduino app, specifically version 1.6.5 and figure out how to add a tool to the tools menu.

Surprise. The existing sample code doesn't work. Not surprising. It hasn't been updated since 2008.

So began my crash course in Java, Processing (the framework in which the Arduino app is actually written), and Arduino itself, which is based on a very old version of the aforementioned Processing.

As a result, I've come up with a basic skeleton for building tools for the Arduino app, along with simple documentation for how to build and install those tools. I've also created my very first git repository. Woohoo! Go me. :) So here it is, ready for the perusal of the entire universe. https://github.com/jrstrick/arduino_tool_skeleton.git

 By the way, if my newfound loathing for Java hasn't come through in this post, let me make it clear. Java is an abomination of a language. The only one I've ever found that I liked less was Python. Java, at least, isn't whitespace-sensitive and broken between versions.

-JRS

07/10/2015 08:42pm Blog Entry

Tip: When the bag of frozen soup at the Asian market says "Cornish Game Hen Soup" they do not mean soup with shredded bits of Cornish game hen in it. They mean soup with a whole bird in it, minus head, feet, guts, and feathers.

Ordering a pizza.

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