Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Tyranny Of The Morning

Chances are you already know whether you're a morning  type "Lark" or a night person - "Owl". Social scientists have coined these two types of people as Larks - people who are early to bed and awake in the morning, or Owls - the other half who are up late in the morning and more prone to be awake in the evening.

What's interesting to know is that despite the light hearted fun with names, these two sleep preferences the "lark and owl" have been researched very closely by science, proving these two types of people are real and sleep preferences are genetically determined. Scientists also know that sleep cycles exist in most living things on this planet all the way down plants, fungi, bacteria and archaea.  Located deep in the hypothalamus of our brain, this sleep cycle is also called the circadian clock, much like an unscripted code which drives everyone within a 24.2 hour wake and sleep rhythm.

But the real problem about Night Owls Vs. Larks is not so much the differences between the two types, or the science behind it, but perceptions, and what I call the "tyrants" of the morning. These Larks, these homogenous masses of  morning political parties - show little tolerance for anyone who isn't prepared for a meeting at 8 am. Not being a Lark you see is a crime in their eyes. Night owls should beware these early birds, who are also complaint conformist types with strong daytime work expectations.

Not being fully awake by 5 or 6 am, by a lark, is seen as nothing less than an outlaw, a danger, a diversity from a union. Sleep is not a bad habit in their eyes if you are showered and dressed with an hour of spinning class before you get to work.

You can easily spot these prominent personalities with caution, these show offs with ease since they often wear crisply cut dry cleaned suits and a Starbucks coffee to complete their ensemble. Larks will also proudly announce their coffee has low fat creamer. Little do they know you were up into the wee hours of the evening, with your own coffee, fully loaded with whole milk, heavy creamer and several ounces of pure finely granulated sugar so they would have their answers in the morning. Yes, the night owls come to the rescue once again, fully prepared for the very same meeting they intend to take on but don't be fooled by these Larks. Given an hour of time, research has showed that night owls will perform equally well as the Larks, and ten hours later they will outperform.

Unfair is the owls experience of the tyranny! The "social jet lag" of performing at our peak during the day gives the owls sleepless and emotional distress.  Ones unavoidable preference for morning or evening should not be considered bad or unhealthy and larks should be more accepting of an owls inherent sleep cycle.  Night owls are better off if they simply accept who they are and become more optimistic. Sleep is not unhealthy, a bad habit or condition to be treated. Be a self-identifying bird and things will go much better.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Themistocles - The Wow Factor

When it comes to history there are doubtless many things we could aspire to like Themistocles, a zenith of fame and heros, during one of the greatest wars of all time, involving two of the greatest empires of all time, at the battle of Marathon and Salamis. An Athenian general with superlative skill and foresight, he fought against the Persians at the great battle of Marathon while a young man, and distinguished himself as the savior of all Greece by persuading Athens to build a navy which went on to defeat Persian at Salamis in 480 bc.

You might be asking yourself why a science fiction author has any interest in history but to me, history is just as relevant as the future, and sometimes just as interesting. True, I have a distinct preoccupation for the future, but I also believe past legacies influence our future. At the time I wrote this, I was also inspired by research I was doing for a board game for my brother. He publishes strategic board games like one he published called "Hands In The Sea." Hands in the Sea is a two-player game about the struggle between Rome and Carthage for control of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica in the years 264-241 BC. In any case, halfway during writing Phobos, I was also helping with his ancient war game, so the past and the future practically converged on my desktop. Strange and yet wonderful thing that while writing Phobos I was also looking up facts on the Romans and the first Punic War.

A famous quote by Edmond Burk says, 'In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind."  And of all the empires that arose and thrived on the face of this planet, it's hard to forget the story of Themistocles. .

Themistocles was somewhat of a loner, nothing much is known of his youth or his parents. Rumors that his mother was a slave or a prostitute are probably nothing more than propaganda spread by his enemies he managed to make during his lifetime. But one thing is for sure; he was in the right place at the right time. By 493 he was elected to the post of archon, one of the city's most important elected officials, helping ready Greece fight against Darius, a ruthless Persian king who was busy sending envoys to the Greek city states seeking 'earth and water" - tokens of submission to Persian authority. Both Athens and Sparta defied these envoys and threw them their death into a pit, just as the movie "300" depicts. Themistocles was already in the picture lobbying to have them executed just on the grounds of defiling the Greek language and their barabaric demands.

In September 490, Persian forces landed at the sandy harbor of Marathon, with an invasion force of 600 ships, 20,000 or more soldiers and 800 calvary. Outnumbered by 2;1 the Athenians advanced against the Persians and won, doing the impossible. Over 6,000 Persians lay dead. In contrast only 192 hoplites had perished. But it wasn't over. Persia was still a threat and he knew it. Soon afterwards Themistocles faced his own inner battles in Athens against dangerous political enemies, but eventually won to build 200 ships at breakneck speed. He spent years preparing for another fateful confrontation with Persia and his moment finally did arrive. Fighting Xerxes -Darius's son at Salamis, Xerxes was convinced Athens had given up, and prepared to relish his victory over the defiant greeks. But Themistocles stepped in with his navy. In the narrow straits of Salamis, Themistocles once again beat the odds  and pushed back the Persians in a battle often described as one of the greatest naval victories of all time. A key event that shaped the entire future of European civilization. I'll skip past the rest of his surviving records, but it's hard not to see this man or his place in history as considerable.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Except From Chapter 1 - Book 2 Of My Trilogy - From Phobos To Mars


For Peter C. Berger


Kermit C. Berger


1. U.S. Mars Outpost 1


Wednesday, November 18, 2205

“The bosses asked, ‘Do you think you and your guys are ready?’” Armstrong recalled. “I said it’d be nice to have another month, but we’re in a race here and we had to take the opportunity when we had it. I had to say we are ready, we are ready to go.”

 – Neil Armstrong, May 25, 2012

Inside a standard Ship-to-Surface aircraft named Aries, Lirren Lamaar, a thirty-six-year-old botanist and her boyfriend Xanders Pierson, the chief technology officer for the commercial space-flight company XWing, headed to the U.S. Mars Outpost. Strategically placed in the warmest area possible, the equator, at 23.1° South and 10.2° West in the Margaritifer Sinus quadrangle, the U.S. Colony was situated carefully in a low-lying, flat area between Parana Valles and Loire Vallis, where it drew an unlimited water supply from a once-frozen spring.
Though Mars was still far from hospitable, the one-hundred-year terraforming process had increased the atmospheric pressure and temperature to levels high enough for survival outside the city, as long as someone wore a component based terrestrial suit, or Coat, a lighter weight version a full pressure suit.
The ship’s sleek, dark cabin held thirty-two seats, which were grouped in fours and had facing pairs on each side, each pair centered by a narrow aisle. The newly acquired passengers had boarded the small shuttle from a larger transport, named the Demetrius, which was still orbiting around Mars before returning to Earth.
Covered in an advanced metallic heat shield, the passenger shuttle turned toward the full majesty of Mars. The planet filled a view window, looking like a giant red marble. Lirren sat by the proximity of the planet in awe and noticed the closest moon, Phobos, circling nearby against a sea of stars. It was incredible, she thought as they flew past the moon, that her son Logan was safely tucked away on a base there.


 “Fear and panic,” Xanders muttered from his seat next to her.

 “I’m okay, thanks.” She glanced his way. She knew it was clear she was not enjoying the ride. Just then the ship hit another stomach-churning bump.
“No, I meant the names of the moons—Phobos and Diemos mean fear and panic.”
Lirren narrowed her eyes at Xanders. “Thanks for the information.”
Xanders caught her glare but held her hand tightly for support. Half-closing his eyes, he yawned. As he rested his head firmly against the back of his seat, Lirren realized there was no mistaking how well he was adjusting to this new environment, already, like the most contented snail in his shell. Apparently, he found the ship’s vibrations soothing, and he was completely at home.
The remaining passengers, including Lirren, seemed to feel a fraction less content—the interior of the small shuttle made very little concessions for passenger comfort. It was bleak, icy, and cramped; they sat strapped down uncomfortably in their seats, the expressions on their faces accurately depicting their apprehension. Xanders looked relaxed as he continued reading a lit book, which hovered in a projection before him at a comfortable reading distance. Although he’d never been a passenger himself, for over five years, as Chief Technology Officer of XWing, he’d been personally responsible for their space transportation programs. XWing was currently the largest commercial space-flight company on Earth and played a pivotal role in bringing cargo and supplies to Mars. Xanders’ specialty was high-payoff technologies.
Not long ago, Lirren’s magnetosphere inventions had become a source of interest to Xanders in terms of how they could be used on Mars; or, to be more exact, she had become a source of interest to him. To think it had led them here was hard for her to believe sometimes, but Logan had come too, abandoning a dying Earth.
Two men jostled in the seats directly across from them, stirring her from her thoughts. Lirren turned her attention away from Xanders and glanced at the two men in front of her. Huddled in those two seats, Lirren reflected, were probably the two most miserable men she’d ever seen. Like she had done earlier, they had their eyes clamped shut and their hands tightly wrapped around the armrests. She knew they were innovative architects who had chosen to come to Mars to supervise construction of the personal living spaces called Habitats, or Habs for short. The younger of the two men, named Quenton, had described Habs to Lirren as simple, small, and comfortable structures created from printers, with the extra comforts of home. Certain materials  



however had been carried here, one shipment at a time. Lirren had listened carefully as he had explained how these living spaces also protected Colonists from dust storms and peaks in radiation. She was also acutely aware of the fact that the architects’ presence on Mars would perhaps be just as important as the Hab designs themselves. It was satisfying to think that someone, or something, was bringing an amazing amount of diversity to Mars now. Not just scientists like herself, but artists—the right-brainers, the creative thinkers—were coming too. Besides the small group of rowdy air force officers seated in the back of the shuttle, she counted several other scientists, two doctors, three journalists, two architects, and four engineers aboard.

Xanders, as an executive for XWing who had a past in law enforcement, was in a class of his own. He had told her that before coming to XWing he had been a DS agent for the U.S. State Department. Initially, Lirren had understood his role had been primarily dignitary protection, but after doing some research on her own one night, she was certain she had only scratched the surface. Considered a member of the Foreign Service, in his former unique position, Xanders could also have been involved in a nexus of other dangerous responsibilities, including counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and counterespionage, to name a few.
Understandably, Xanders was tight-lipped and seldom brought up details about his past assignments with the government to Lirren or anyone else. Curious, she had tried prying into his past before XWing once or twice, but the only answer she ever got was that it was all still classified and confidential, so he wasn’t allowed to tell her much, even now. He was more than happy to tell her, though, that he had stopped enjoying the overseas lifestyle required of DS agents and had thought about settling down before switching to working for XWing.
When they had started their journey to Mars, Xanders had a heart-to-heart with Lirren, revealing he had originally quit his job as a DS agent after briefly investigating XWing for fraudulent permits and human trafficking to Mars, an investigation in which he uncovered more than he bargained for. Without hearing too many details from Xanders, Lirren understood that it must have been shocking for him, after being charged with the job of finding interstellar permit fraud at XWing, to find out just how many rich and powerful people were practically begging XWing for a pass to Mars. Looking into the drastic measures XWing and other space flight companies made to accommodate the growing list, it must have been impossible to ignore the link between his investigation and the alarming data he uncovered about the cataclysmic climate shifts taking place on Earth. He knew it was more than just a coincidence.  That part was loud and clear between the two of them now.


As for the rest, his sudden leap of interest in Mars and XWing had had to do with a keen interest in space flight. By the time they had met, Xanders had carefully leveraged his position inside XWing for over five years, helping manage key programs in advanced technologies, with his own escape in mind. Meeting Lirren hadn’t been part of the plan, but they were bound to meet head-on when XWing and the USDA made arrangements to take Lirren’s magnetosphere technology to Mars. Just a few months later after their friendship began, they fell into a romantic relationship, tangled in a web of secrecy over the Top Secret project. Understanding the lengths that Lirren and other scientists experienced to save the Earth’s food supply must have been the last push Xanders needed to finalize his plans—his own mission exit, revised to include her and her son. She could only imagine what must have been going though his head before he told her about everything. It had all come to a head one day, at the last minute before the XWing getaway shuttle had left Vandenberg.
As the ship began to lurch its way through Stratosphere, her train of thought ended. The ship’s mild acceleration had been barely noticeable for the first half of the trip, but now as they reached Mars thin atmosphere it was getting rougher and potentially dangerous. The captain came over the intercom to make a short announcement about the turbulence: “Ladies and gentlemen, please keep your seatbelts fastened as we do a belly flop through the atmosphere.”
Lirren felt a jolt of fear rip through her body as the reality of the moment kick in—this was now the point of no return.  Her jaw muscles clenched tightly and her knuckles turned white as she gripped her seat’s armrests.  The other passengers all fell silent as the ship jarred her way through the atmosphere. The ship lurched down again so fast it left Lirren’s stomach behind.
 “I’m gonna be sick,” someone spoke into his com-set.
Lirren turned her head, looking in the direction of the voice. It was coming from the heavy-set journalist named McLean, who was anything but lean. Seated on the left side of the airship, he was facing the cockpit, along with two female colleagues.
The other passengers looked on anxiously as McLean began grabbing for a sick bag.
 “Sick,” he repeated.
Xanders was staring, but Lirren quickly pulled her hand up to block her peripheral vision. “Great Space, don’t look,” she said.



Xanders ignored her and continued to stare blatantly for a few more seconds.
“Guess who’s gonna lose his dinner,” one of the privates chimed in, speaking in a low voice through his com-set.
 “Yeah, and we’re all going to be wearing it when gravity kicks in,” another voice added sarcastically.
“Knock it off.” The unit leader cut them off, annoyed.
Uneasily, Lirren and Xanders looked over at the journalist, who had jammed the bag to his mouth. So far, he was just breathing into it.
“We’ll be out of the worst soon,” Xanders said assuredly to Lirren. He understood space travel was both new and terrifying to most of the passengers. He closed his eyes, surely thinking about the next few busy days of life on Mars, but Lirren and the others weren’t exactly sharing his mood.
Lirren shut her eyes tightly and then opened them again, this time studying every detail of her surroundings to keep her mind off the landing. She looked down at the thick, X-shaped seatbelt that was clamped over her chest and holding her fast to the seat. The extremely tight suits she and the other passengers wore were a thick, dark-gray color. The Coats, as they were called, provided air flow and a protective layer of tightly woven fabric around their wearers’ bodies. For now, the suits also served as back-up in case they lost cabin pressure, an event she hoped would never happen. Arrays of gray lines weaved their way across her suit, giving it an almost quilted look; however, she knew the quilting was not made up of threads, but included small lines through which air pressure carefully flowed. Her matching, lightweight boots with dark black trim and rubber soles reached comfortably to her knees. Bright-yellow trim ran down the sides of her neck to the back and under her forearms. Two thin lines also ran up the sides of her legs. On the left side of her left shoulder was the yellow and silver-gray XWing emblem.
 “Xanders, I’m having déjà vu,” she exclaimed, looking at the suit and her surroundings.
 “Was I in it too?” one of the young privates behind her asked.
 “That would be a nightmare,” she retorted smiling. A few of the privates began snickering again in their com-sets, but tiny brightly lit hologram videos flickered on in front of each passenger, rescuing her from further insidious banter. She and the other passengers watched the moving graphics while a smooth female voice explained the ship’s unusual landing protocol and necessary precautions they needed to make with their suits before stepping out of the ship.



After the video ended, Lirren wondered again how her son Logan was doing on Phobos. Several younger passengers, including Logan and Lirren’s close friend Dirk, had reluctantly agreed to stay on Phobos for a short time. Although Mars had been expecting a handful of temporary specialists, and three permanent arrivals, Dirk was an unexpected guest in the equation. Mars needed a few more weeks to complete additional living spaces. Logan would also remain on Phobos, from four to six months, because of his age and a dilemma over radiation levels. The gamma levels on Mars were a risk for everyone that could easily max out the limited lifetime rule of thumb if one wasn’t careful; in the worst-case scenario, exposure could cause genetic defects in the Colony’s descendants. Therefore, the Martian government had begun a strict policy that any new arrivals on the planet aged twenty or younger, or anyone considering pregnancy, remain on Phobos temporarily, until Mars’s maximum doses, known as mSvs, had reached a reduced and acceptable level. Lirren had been forced to keep in mind that it wasn’t just the risks they imposed upon themselves, but also the risks potentially imposed on her son and other young arrivals, and the severity of the consequences. Mars simply did not have the resources to treat pregnancy complications on base, and Phobos had far less risk of impact from the dangerous cosmic rays. Understanding the staged process had been difficult but she understood it was best for his protection. Logan would be sequestered away from the sun’s light on Phobos with it’s hidden base tucked deep inside.
Having just turned thirty-six, and Xanders at forty, the two easily made the cutoff, but saying good-bye to Logan on the XWing ship Demetrius, had been heartbreaking. Lirren and Xanders had boarded the shuttle to Mars, while Logan and Dirk took a different direction to station Phobos. Saying their goodbyes inside the Dem’s inner docking portals was one of the hardest things she’d ever done, and it had been the last time she saw her son. Logan had stood there, tall, looking back at her quietly in his own proud yet tender way. Something had hit her then, seeing him go with a brave look on his face. Hiding her feelings, she had stood there and heard herself say, it was for the best and she’d see him soon. It was all she could manage without bursting into tears. Logan and Dirk had disappeared from view into the docking bay to Phobos.
One more bump hit the ship, jostling Lirren into the present. Another passenger’s tight, nervous voice made a joke that echoed from his quad seat, which was located somewhere behind Lirren and Xanders, as the spacecraft tumbled through the worst of the atmospheric entry.
 “Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight,” a voice mocked back, coming through everyone’s headgear microphones.
 “What are you doing?” Lirren heard another voice say.
 “Praying for you, man,” another voice chimed in.
The men finally settled and said nothing more.
Eventually, the ship’s course smoothed out and Lirren could actually see the Colonies—the beacon of mankind, surrounded by the Colonists’ lights, just a few thousand feet below. She was expecting a thought-provoking announcement, but the captain made a small, rather anticlimactic comment about their pressure suits, and that was it.
 “There it is! ” Her comment sliced through the quiet cabin.
Xanders nodded in agreement and turned his head, craning his neck as best he could over her shoulder.
Following the captain’s instructions, Lirren, Xanders, and the other passengers prepared themselves by activating their suits’ protective pressure capabilities. Lirren pressed a lit button on her left outer cuff, which then glowed as it transitioned from red to green. She felt her elbows and knees stiffen as the suit tightened, just like a glove over her entire body. It suddenly struck her that, besides the suit, all she had with her was a small duffel bag that contained some undergarments, one sharp-looking interior lab garment, make-up, a hairbrush, and some personal hygiene supplies, all marked with XWing’s logo. Each passenger had a similar duffel bag.



After the ship finally touched ground, the ship’s crew members became preoccupied with docking procedures, giving the passengers a moment to unbuckle and prepare themselves for stepping onto Mars. Soon after, someone behind them began speaking. “Thanks for choosing XWing. We have landed at Mars Colony 1, and the temperature outside is cold as hell. Please enjoy your visit.
 The voice was full of mockery.
They were all standing by now, lined up to leave, and a few passengers chuckled nervously. Then the hatch opened, and they exited, one by one, down the ship’s small ramp onto the surface of the planet. The landing had kicked up clouds of sand, and a light, gusty wind whipped at their feet. Lirren gazed around, looking at the red sandhills everywhere. A couple men rushed forward toward them, directing them to the hanger.
She felt light, and she jumped to see what happened. Her legs and her steps felt effortless. She stopped and strained her eyes through her clear, protective shield to get a good look at her surroundings, peering back at her footprints in the red powdery sand. She shivered with a sheer sense of awe, not wanting to forget the moment she landed on Mars. It didn’t take her more than a few seconds to slide her visor back and test out the air pressure. The cold hit her, and her chest heaved trying to inhale the strange thin air. She noticed Xanders had also done exactly the same thing while he walked down the ramp—apparently, he was just as curious about the geo-engineered atmosphere as she was. He walked in front of her and then stopped, looking back with a grin on his face. Lirren walked over and paused next to him, returning his smile. Simultaneously, they looked down at their footprints.
 “Can you believe it?” he said, trying to catch his breath.
“No,” she said, gasping. It felt surreal. “I can’t...I can’t believe it.” The ordeal to get here was long. Against all probability, against all odds, they had come to survive on Mars.
 “We shouldn’t do this long, it’s dangerous,” Xanders coughed feeling like his lungs were burning. He swiftly tapped their suit’s controls, and their shields glided back over their faces, snapping into place. She jerked her head back as oxygen shot though her suit again, but then breathed in the mixture appreciatively.
“How long can you breathe it?” she asked.
“A few minutes,” he warned. “Not enough oxygen, and still too much CO2.”
“Okay,” she said, already feeling her heart pound.
Xanders grabbed her hand lightly and pulled her closer. The passengers walked forward, as they lagging behind. It was difficult to make out much beyond a few lights in the distance now. Another small security team appeared a few yards from the ship, waiting to lead them into an entranceway. It looked like there were two main landing pads: the one they had landed on and another a few hundred meters to the west.
 “The landing pads are made of packed concrete—Mars concrete.” Xanders remarked with growing excitement.
He turned his head to Lirren from inside his shield for a moment, speaking in a lower voice.
“I meant to tell you there are a little more than a thousand people living at the U.S. Outpost. It’s almost thirty miles long and ten miles wide, and most of it’s under your feet.”
 “How many people are here then?” she asked sounding surprised. She looked ahead as they trailed behind the line of newcomers .
 “About thirty-five hundred—five hundred or so are Independents.” He kept talking. “The other three colonies are nearby, about fifty miles apart from one another.”
 “Independents?” she asked.
Xanders took a quick intake of his O2 and then spoke again  “People who get here on their own—like our Russian friend, Zalesskii.” 

Friday, September 18, 2015


Dear hard science fiction fans,

Below is some of the research I did for my stories. Although I feel research is important, for a writer, what matters most are feelings and the characters who make up the story. Technology is only one aspect of the book, but sets the stage. As far as I'm concerned, technology is only as smart as the person who uses it.

Future Military Weaponry: Flash bangs, contact lenses that access information, drones, drones that fight other drones, M.A.V.'s (micro air vehicles) flat wave radio technology. Ambient backscatter devices which is a wireless way to communicate without relying on batteries. Textiles and Kevlar suit technology to protect soldiers and prototyping for advanced suit design. Electronic handcuffs and hyper stealth. Electromagnetic rail guns, fling bullets, laser guns. EMP technology, sentient unmanned vehicles and A.I. Giving robots license to kill with advanced weaponry. I like the idea of a robot sentry to protect a home right behind a door. I also touched on the concept of integrated smart homes, smart cars and  all in one iD's (interface device). Holograms, and programs with personality please... Radiation protective clothing, and ion cleansing devices to save on water. I thought of something I call PD's or perimeter drones which may or may not have already been thought of, which raise up armed and ready around a vehicle or ship as protection. I also imagined  a type of magnetic shield for police or soldiers to deflect explosions or gun fire. The future will be adventurous and dangerous at once...

Agriculture: Super vitamins to ward away global hunger. Agriculture equipment, environmental control systems, precision farming technologies, harvest processing and irrigation practices. Algae products, and nutritional impacts on society, along with government rationing systems.  Genetic mutants, parent seeds, and seed vaults, that pertain to human survival. Drought resistant seeds and biopharmaceutical production. Crops will be super bred to grow in a few weeks. Magnetospheres to protect crops from radiation.

Biology and medicine: Bone scaffolding systems to heal broken bones in weeks instead of months. Healing patches like band-aids  that will instantly advance  the healing of torn skin. Life saving medical drones that can reach an injured person in minutes with emergency medical supplies along with a doctor who can see and speak to the patient through a camera inside the drone. Hospital information becomes more seamless. It's been suggested that even the beds themselves will keep track of the patients vital statistics Donated parts and blood will be a thing of the past. We will have printed parts and synthetic blood. Medicine will be one of our most advanced areas taking leaps and bounds but it's a little overwhelming to research it all.

Education and work: This is a big topic but overall I think work and classrooms will migrate to homes. Meetings in person may become only when necessary. Privacy will become a thing of the past. Perhaps privacy will be paid for and very expensive.

Tranportation: We'll always need it. We'll have mag lev trains hopefully and less cars. Maybe the cars will self drive and energy will be in kilowatts. Cars will be charged. I investigated many fuel systems and outcomes. In my last book I invented a new type of ice sailor vehicle and investigated a new type of all terrain two man vehicle that travels through snow. Dog sleds are still in practice however.

Fun ideas: Smoking that is healthy, using flavored water vapors and bio electronic tattoos. The tatoos only show up when touched. How about a kitchen where cups, plates and silverware are instantly printed as needed, then easily recycled  into a specialized compartment for the next meal? No more soap and water, rinsing, or cleaning. How about projected images of dancers at drinking establishments? It's a bit "bladerunner" but  it would be cheap and effective...

Things that I think will never change based on the past:

War and wine
Marriage and partnerships (sex)
Human compassion and ingenuity
Smoking and drugs
Greed and capacity for evil
Friendships and the need for socialization
Money in some form
Government power
Food and and survival
The environment

We will have the power of technology, but we are all still human. Look at the past to see the future don't you agree?

Did I leave out space? I researched space ships, space engines, and space travel. LAV's (launch to surface vehicles), Time and distance to Mars. Solar time, colonization, gravity, weight and mass. Bone density and loss. Problems with radiation and space travel. CO2 levels and the atmospheric make-up of Mars. I investigated the soil, and although plants could thrive with water and nitrates, the best way to live on Mars  is underground. I also looked up geo-engineering ideas for Mars, and then there we go again, right back into agriculture.  But be careful with geo-engineering. Sometimes if done the wrong way, things can go in reverse and never come back. As Mars atmosphere thickens, so does the plot, which I promise heats up faster than CO2 levels. Did I mention, I really like the idea of space elevators too....? Perhaps a new material invented in great Britain called Graphene could be used for the tether. I could say more about the research, and although I've skipped a few things here, I hope you enjoy my future.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Logician

INTP stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving. It is a four letter personality profile based on the Myers Briggs test. Originally created by Carl Jung, Katharine Cook Briggs, and her daughter Isabel in 1920, the test theorized there were four principle psychological functions - sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking. Originally intended to help women entering the industrial workforce during WWll, it is still popular today.

The idea is that there are four dichotomies that meet together to form your personality type. You are Introverted (I) or Extraverted (E), Sensing (S) or Intuitive (N), Thinking (T) or Feeling (F), and Judging (J) or Perceiving (P). So in total there are 16 personality types. 

It's actually not as boring as it sounds, and these profiles are sometimes taken into account by matchmaking companies. There is a free shortened test you can take online and if you find out what your type is, it's just good to know. There isn't a best type, but it can make you better understand yourself, and appreciate the differences between people. Some people make a hobby of it but once you take the test, you will understand your strengths and weaknesses.

Also known as the architect - I am the INTP, they are rare - maybe 3% of the population - but most of that is male so as a female I am about 1%. The INTP is a person who is typically independent, private and more likely to do things their way. We are suspicious of assumptions and conventions and eager to break apart ideas that others take for granted. It also says we can be merciless when analyzing concepts and beliefs, and tend to correct others.  It's not always a good thing, and I've had to learn the hard way. Depending on the situation I usually go with the flow, and take things pretty lightly, but an INTP is always thinking. Sometimes they put their thoughts to good uses like a famous INTP - Albert Einstein. Social rebellion can be a problem however,  which at times is bad for work and social situations, so needless to say I  do have a hard time following the rules.  ("Uh... I bypassed a few people I don't like, and skipped over some bureaucratic BS to get that report to you") I sheepishly admit I do hate senseless rules, after all, so many people take them for granted. Note I say senseless here. I do abide the law... but in general I think there are too many DO NOTS here. Has anyone asked themselves who made these rules? Oh well... there I go again. The pioneers they call us, the architects or thinkers. As far as I'm concerned, these questions are an advantage and have saved me from making bad decisions.

Curious and driven, my MB type seems to be exactly what the test will point out, a person who tries very hard to take part in an ordinary conversation. Like how good the food is... Wonderful its great, now can we please discuss how to save the world? I beg you! I don't like lies much either, or arrogance. I suppose what other people are easily impressed by just doesn't cut it for me. I admire hard work and intelligence and sincerity, but in reality, I take a lot of this with a grain of salt and try not to peg anyone, or myself too much. I can be influenced by my personality, but not controlled. At times people are just trying to impress you or get your attention, while others are pretentious or phony and there's a difference. If someone for instance is involved in a pyramid scheme for money, pulling the wool over someone's else eyes,  I will become very agitated. After a few inquisitive and direct questions, I know they will avoid me at all costs, ignore me for someone more gullible, or leave the table. I am used to these reactions by now, but at least they paid for dinner.  I made sure to smile, to nod, and ask they pay the bill first of course, before I began an interrogation. It seemed like the logical thing to do :)


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Space Exploration Is Worth It

When people question space they question education, science, economy, glamour, prestige, political and nationalistic advantages, and the entrepreneurial spirit. Space exploration is a package deal with all of the above. It's hard for many people to accept space as significant, but curiosity and exploration are vital to the human spirit and accepting the challenges of going into space is just a part of our human journey. Exploration is what we do because its a natural function of the mind, like an artist who thinks of ideas. This is exactly what Michelangelo Buonarroti would say when people asked him how he thought of his ideas. He told them it was a natural function of the mind, as is curiosity. 

For another thing, space exploration should treated with respect because going into space is not easy. There are only a few highly capable people who can do it and go beyond a few moments of wonder at the universe. People involved with space, have unique skills and mental attitudes to brave unknown perils. They are an elite breed of warriors who represent the best that we have on this planet. This is sort of a given in my opinion, so when people question the importance of space exploration, I tend to think it's probably because they don't care. They are only marginally interested at best, and don't think its worth it to go beyond our daily agendas. Part of human nature is that people focus on themselves, and human nature is largely self- absorbed and dictated. Psychologists call this "selfish altruism" which is why some people don't want to invest in anything that doesn't directly benefit themselves. I think its sort of a hypocritical attitude though because cell phones are connected to a satellites and GPS systems which are in fact an invention of space programs.

Also, space is not a quid pro quo. I think its important to understand space exploration is not a case of having a space program or feeding the poor. Those who advance the line of how space is too expensive are not interested in the well being of the poor. In my opinion, that person is just trying to get the votes of the "poor" by convincing the naive that the rocket program is keeping food off their tables somehow. For instance our dropping the space shuttle program did not divert a single dollar to the "poor." All that happened was that a lot of people who worked in the shuttle program lost their jobs. 

So the argument that diverting funds or depleting funds, or even removing funds from space exploration programs is ridiculous. Space funds won't solve any of the worlds problems because before space programs, there were still world problems. There will always be world problems with or without space exploration. 

Don't forget about a long list of space jobs listed online which pay well - like SpaceX Spacelinks, Spacejobs and Space Careers who all post thousands of jobs which is not taking from the poor, it's supporting families. Jobs are the beginning of a livelihood and these "space" jobs are not just for rocket scientists. 

I haven't even gotten to the part about the importance of understanding our planet, our own species and and our relationship to the Universe. Could there be life out there? I think that's something worth knowing. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why People Like Science Fiction

Someone once said, "The Devils In The Details," and the older I get the more I have to admit there might be some truth to that. Its not that I like details. In fact I hate details, yet in the same breath I am also driven to find explanations and understand why some people like something and why they don't. could say I'm into the "big picture." Let's take for instance science fiction.

After doing the research, and drawing from a few of my own personal experiences I think there is a wide range of reasons why people do. For instance, about a year ago now, I gathered some information at a party about my trilogy. One of the women at the party, who I noticed had a a thick (sounding)  Russian accent, tugged at her fur shawl, and told me she didn't like science fiction. I guess I wasn't fully prepared for her answer so I took in a breath and simply asked her, "Why not?" She shrugged with bored look on her face and had no answer. "Romance?" I questioned hopefully?  She shook her head, "I don't read." "Oh I see," was all I could manage. Before I could regain my senses, her younger Russian counterpart,  snatched one of my book marks out of my hand before I could blink, and told me she loved science fiction. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I managed a smile and told her I hoped she would enjoy it. As far as the other women though, could this have been a smack down because I gave her boyfriend - my divorce attorney - a friendly hug a few seconds beforehand? My mind's eye flickered back in time, but it was too late to test out the theory. Maybe if I had asked her before the hug she loved it. 

She had stood up by now,  and began tp complain about a lot other things she didn't like as well -  like football, and that she wanted to leave the party.  Suffice to say the host - a close friend of mine, who had been closely watching her antics, leaned into my ear with a sour look on his face, and said loud and clear - "I don't like that bitch."  I stood firm, trying very hard not to smile. I saw her blanche out of the corner of my eye, as he continued. "Just a whore after his money,"  he continued. ( I found out later my divorce attorney had been recently divorced - and this was his new friend - and I was right about her accent)  "Sorry to hear that," was about all I could manage and found a quick exit from the unfolding drama. Its not that I was offended.  I admire anyone who has the nerve to speak their mind. Ah well. Too bad I didn't ask her before the hug but the latest research will tell you one in five people do enjoy science fiction. So in a flash I met one. 

The steps of science research are: 1. Ask a question. 2. Do background research. 3. Construct a hypothesis. 4. Test the Hypothethis. 5. Analyze the data and communicate your results.

But back to the details and to the party. The good news is I did find a few people at the party who were genuinely interested in my stories, which concluded the research that one in five will. Science fiction readers are also about 60% male and 40% female. They are often young, or older but the in-between ages fade away from the market for a time. According to a blind research project by a writer named Mark Neimann-Ross they also make good money with the average income at about 50,000 to more than 80,000 a year. Another piece of interesting news is - it is thought, but not confirmed that science fiction readers use both sides of the brain, able to combine the analytical and the intuitive visual sides at the same time. Although this is only extrapolation it seems only a percent of the population are able to "think" like an S/SF reader.

Although that might be true, my least favorite research has to do with social stigma. Despite overwhelming evidence that science fiction is a genre of mature ideas and intelligent writing, mainstream society still hold this as "Nerd" cool, or for 12-yr olds with overactive imaginations, and not for women. As usual these perceptions don't seem to come into play as people hold up the movie line for Avatar, The Time Traveler's Wife or Harry Potter. Sigh. I can't fight against perceptions and don't care to. Life is just too short.

As for me, I like science fiction because the here and now is a little bit boring to me. We already have the here and now, and the real world can be a bit disenchanting, predictable and well, boring.  Rational. Systematic. Even cold. Where is the wonder and magic in that? Lets re enchant the world and spark young imaginations. Let's reinstate the unknown into the scientific process. To me it offers a hope, a dream a future that we just haven't seen yet. The devil may be in the details but according to the numbers, 21% of people in the USA do like science fiction which adds up to 64 million people in this country alone.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

You Are Invited! Here is my press release. Please join me.

The Phobos Series, Book I By K. Van Kramer
220 pages, $17.95 trade paperback
ISBN 978-1-60975-118-0

 Local author debuts new science fiction novella “ESCAPE TO PHOBOS”

 “Immerse yourself in a unique science fiction adventure when a quiet agricultural scientist finds herself entangled in an exodus to Mars and its moon Phobos.” 

Book signing party: Sunday September 27th 12pm to 5 pm
At: The Vinoy® Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort
The Abbot Room
501 5th Ave NE, St Petersburg

St. Petersburg, Florida —A long time fan of science fiction, Kim Van Kramer decided to try her hand at writing  spending the better of four years to bring a Mars trilogy to life. With extensive research in space travel and a spark of imagination, Van Kramer refined her idea using a balance between science and fiction in a gripping plot that humans could face one day. With Andy Wier’s The Martian now a huge movie success, science fiction about Mars has never been more popular. And this book keeps up the pace.

Establishing the foundation for two more future titles in the trilogy, Escape to Phobos features a vividly imagined future where a strong female protagonist learns the truth about cataclysmic weather conditions threatening life on Earth and ends up center stage in a race to help a small colony on Mars. Escape to Phobos, filled with cutting-edge science, adventurous themes and compelling characters, will be perfect for fans who enjoy science fiction, adventure, and an authentic portrayal of Mars colonization.

Van Kramer said: ‘Joining Silver Leaf Books is a dream come true and I can’t believe how lucky I am to find such a perfect home. Escape To Phobos is the culmination of my love for science fiction and I hope to take sci-fi fans on a remarkable adventure made possible through storytelling.’

Kim has a BA in Graphic design from the University Of Florida. An ADDY Award winner, she later began writing, working toward publication while dividing her time between a job and family.

Escape To Phobos can be purchased on Amazon, Nook, or through Silver Leaf Books, LLC, P.O. Box 6460, Holliston, MA 01746. For more information, visit

Monday, July 13, 2015

Het geheim van schoonheid - The secret Of Beauty

I found this video through the Nemo Museum in Amsterdam and it was interesting to see that it supports an earlier article I wrote about the Golden Ratio.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Golden Ratio - A Hidden Symmetry

"Phi" the Golden Ratio, also known as the divine proportion has fascinated mathematicians for over 2,400 years. As an artist with a BA in graphic design and a minor in art history I can confirm artists do study this ratio in great detail and it does exist in both art and architecture. It's not always obvious in a classic painting until your professor points it out, but once you see it you know its there. In some paintings it's a hidden triangle with points of light, but its never obvious. This magic "exact" number or Phi, is observed when taking ratios of distances across the board in the context of science, nature, architecture, sculpture, painting and music. In nature, zoologists recognize the ratio -  1.618 as the logarithmic equation to a spiral, the curvature of an elephant tusk or the shape of a Kudo's horn. In meteorology its recognized in the spiral of a hurricane, and in the cosmos its seen in the spiral of a galaxy. It seems this cosmic "constant" (T) is found everywhere as an infinite constant. To summarize: if "a + b" is the whole line, and "a" is a larger segment and "b" is a smaller segment, then: (a+b)/a = a/b + Phi. The shortened numerical value of the Golden ratio mathematical equation is actually 1.61803399.

Despite many people's assumptions to the contrary, the fine arts are full of math. A battle between elegant symmetry or chaos, a painting can sometimes be all about math and the Golden ratio. As the Golden section is found in designs and the beauty of nature it can also be used to achieve beauty and balance in the design of a painting. For instance, as an artist you have to know the rule of thirds. Nothing is more boring than a painting split in half. That's why when you look at the landscape you'll see often see a two thirds / one third composition. A succesful landscape will have the sky for two thirds of the painting, and the land at the bottom third or vice versa. One thing I can say about the arts is, at least we know how to apply the Golden ratio. We may not know exactly what it means but there's no doubt we use it over and over to get a balanced composition, and we have been for hundreds of years.  On the other hand, the very science that lead us into our own useful application seems unsure of the evidence. Scientific research of the Golden ratio seems to be considered more of an intellectual curiosity than a technical insight, but new evidence is illustrating how this mathematical theory actually exists.

For instance in 2009 - a scientist named Calleman reported the Golden Ratio is involved in the universal Bohr radius fromula, when a single electron orbits hydrogen's atoms nucleus and its smallest possible orbit with lowest energy is the most likely position of  a number matching the golden mean. A year later in 2010 an international team of researchers observed a nanoscale symmetry hidden in solid state matter that showed the same attributes as the Golden ratio. To reveal the hidden quantum symmetry they worked with a magnetic material cobalt niobate in chains only one atom wide and observed that these atoms acted much like a guitar strings that resonated in a series of notes, with frequencies in the ratio of 1.618. Such discoveries are no coincidence and in this case, the researchers didn't believe it was either. Dr. Caldea, the lead researcher said it reflected a beautiful property of the quantum system - a hidden symmetry. Actually quite a special one called E8 by mathematicians, and this is its first observation in a material.

Strangely enough, for the last twenty years, our very own DNA coding has also revealed models of fractal integer patterns like Fibonacci or Lucas numbers which are deeply connected to the Golden ratio as well. In 2010 a exhaustive study proved that  codon populations in single stranded Whole Human Genome DNA Are fractal and fine tuned by the Golden ratio 1.1618. The paper was published in Disciplinary Science 2010 by Jean-Claude Perez.

Maybe the time has come to recognize that relativity and quantum theories can be integrated and linked numerically to the value of a mathematical constant. This ratio of hidden symmetries seems as if it's trying to tell us something important about connections. There seems to be a lot of skepticism about the idea but evidence is out there and to be honest I think some people lack imagination. Imagination is a powerful tool used in science and art, and mathematics has played a key role in physics and understanding the laws of nature and the universe. Whether art, space-time or biology, the Golden ratio is a great mystery I hope we can use to the best of our knowledge someday.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Predicting The Future

The next two hundred years is a future difficult to predict, but as I wrote the Phobos series I found myself thinking about timelines. Inside these timelines I looked carefully at what has changed in the last two hundred years, but I also reflected on a few things that haven't changed in the last 200 years or 2000 years for that matter.

Part of the challenge of science fiction is envisioning the future as a whole, good or bad but also imagining the details and everyday life of someone. Would wine still be around? What's in our medicine cabinets and in our homes? Do we smoke cigarettes? Are we married? Do we work? Do we have families? What is on our plate in the future, and on our tables?

Well, certainly I think wine will be on the table, and I tend to believe a family will be sitting around it too. Marriage might go out of style and back in, but I don't see a future where men and women ever lose the desire for love and commitment, or the capacity for jealously and hatred.  Of course, no one can predict the future but there's certainly some things that will never change.

Lets not forget among these natural chords of humanity, that technology can only do so much in the face of disaster, and we are often at the mercy of nature, so be prepared.  Things could get shaky if apocalyptic weather conditions crop up and so will food supplies. Although we have the ability to adapt with genetic crops and super vitamins, nothing can stop over population. Government food rations, famine and hardship mixed in with medical advances, cars that drive us, homes that talk to us, and drones that protect us or spy on us in every manner seems like a possible scenario. Maybe gas becomes kilowatts, and dollars become credits, but certainly energy becomes the price. As far as smoking, maybe 200 years from now cigarettes are healthy, using nothing more than flavored water vapor that is medically beneficial. Only the "health nuts" will be smoking. I imagine perhaps, that despite many things, medical technology will always take leaps and bounds. Communication will be a fun one too.

The questions is, in the worst case scenario, what would we do? A small colony on Mars could be an answer if things got bad enough. Just how bad would things have to get, well, I'll leave that up to the future about 200 years from now and inside the pages of my story.  Maybe just maybe, there is a small colony...