Tag Archives: project

2017-06-29: The Lives of Arthur

Geoffrey Ashe’s The Discovery of King Arthur connects a historical person named Riothamus with the legendary King Arthur. When I read the book (late 1980s) I thought it might be interesting to incorporate the ideas into a novel-like structure where the historical aspects are recorded in some monastery after the death of Riothamus, then elaborated by accreting legendary aspects, and becomes the source material leading to Geoffrey of Monmouth and beyond.

2002-01-02: GTD – Monthly reviews

2002-01-00: GTD

I started trying to apply David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” principles about 15 years ago (I’m writing this in March 2017), with imperfect results. His approach is oriented to executives and managers, but there is plenty of advice on the web to simplify it. I generally think it’s a good approach, and I recommend it. Here’s my take-away:

The key is to have a trusted system (e.g., a paper notebook or a computer application) that holds everything you need to get things done. The main point is: as soon as you find something that needs to be done, if you can’t do it in the next couple of minutes, get it into your trusted system (i.e., an inbox). Then you can stop worrying about trying to remember it, and trust that you’ll be reminded in a timely way. Just this simple principle is a great stress-reducer.

Around this notion, Allen recommends a workflow of five main steps (some refinements are possible; check his book for details, or find web resources):

  1. Collect (Inbox, etc)
  2. Process (actionable? next action?)
  3. Organize (add actions to lists)
  4. Review (daily: actions;  weekly: lists;  monthly/quarterly: projects;  annually: goals)
  5. Do (actions by context, priority, time, energy)

In my attempt to apply the GTD approach, I tried the following:

  1. Documented some life goals
  2. Identified some projects that support those goals
  3. Identified tasks that would move the projects forward (in a. spreadsheet named ProjectsTasks)
  4. Prioritized and tracked accomplishment of tasks in monthly reviews

I haven’t been entirely successful in executing this program, but I still think it’s worthwhile to be aware of the approach, and try to adapt it as much as makes sense. The links above are to some additional posts that expand on aspects of the approach as I was trying to apply it.




2017-03-07: Castle Knob website

The original CK website was hand-coded with HTML and CSS. It isn’t very good, and hasn’t been updated in quite a while. I intend to replace it with a new website based on WordPress. I will use as much of the original content as possible.


  • select a template
  • create basic pages from existing content
  • add new content
  • ?


2017-02-01: Digital legacy

Inspired by Joe Kissel’s book Take Control of Your Digital Legacy, this is a project to structure and record the data necessary to allow Susan, Chris or someone else to find and make use of the digital aspects of my legacy, and Susan’s. This includes:

  • Financial accounts
  • Photos
  • This “backlog”
  • Other websites under my DreamHost account (for blackstone.name and castle knob.com)
  • Details of the published works under Castle Knob, including CreateSpace, Kindle and Smashwords, and including J Verl Silvester’s CS account for Code of the West
  • Notes for updated will(s)
  • Projects in progress, that might be taken over or finished by someone else





2017-02-02: Eagles/Kids

This would be a sculpture, along the lines of Swimmin’ Hole – Polliwogs. The scene would be set with a couple of kids on the swings, another waiting his turn, and another flying through the air having just “bailed out”. The quirk is that kids in flight, or just taking off (and maybe landing) are shown as eagles, or transitioning between kid and eagle.


2017-02-02: The End

This is an idea for a series of short stories, inspired by a remark made to me by a colleague at Unisys circa 1993. The remark was by John ?, a Texan who always wore western-style coats and cowboy boots, to the effect that if he learned he had a terminal disease, he would “take out” certain bad people. I think he had mafia types in mind, rather than political assassination, but it’s impossible to be sure now.

Anyway, the notion could serve as the premise for a series of stories involving different people in a retirement/nursing/hospice setting who “catch the meme” from one of their community, and separately carry out various schemes with various kinds of targets.


2017-02-02: Saved By Aliens!

This is just an idea, perhaps already done by someone else.

At a conference of astronomers, held at a time when society is going to hell in a handbasket (i.e., much like today), two astronomers hatch a scheme to convince earth’s leaders that they have detected an alien vessel heading for earth, apparently decelerating to stop in our vicinity in several years time. The hope is that this news will result in global cooperation to meet the impending crisis.

2017-02-02: Gant’s Woman

Besides Harry Gant’s manuscript for I Saw Them Ride Away, he left a rougher set of pages on the subject of women. I haven’t yet read the whole thing, but the bits I have read seem promising. Someone (Susan volunteered) needs to transcribe the text. Then Castle Knob’s crack team of editors needs to assess the viability of the project and create a plan for developing a publishable work.

The manuscript is in one of the large plastic file boxes that also contain photos and other material of Gant’s.

2016-08-24: Cyc

I first became aware of the Cyc artificial intelligence (AI) engine around 1984, while working for Unisys, and have followed its progress ever since. From time to time I have downloaded and fiddled with the OpenCyc version; this basically contains a relatively large ontology knowledge base. More recently I’ve learned that the more-complete ResearchCyc can be used for non-commercial purposes. According to Wikipedia, “In addition to the taxonomic information contained in OpenCyc, ResearchCyc includes significantly more semantic knowledge (i.e., additional facts) about the concepts in its knowledge base, and includes a large lexicon, English parsing and generation tools, and Java based interfaces for knowledge editing and querying. In addition it contains a system for Ontology-based data integration.”

I am interested in exploring these additional capabilities. One way to explore them might be to try to implement Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. However, I would start with more limited knowledge entry and query exercises.


2016-07-15: Waters of March

Susan and I went to see Sergio Mendes at Ram’s Head Tavern in Annapolis this year, nearly 50 years after we first saw him in Pittsburgh. During the months before the show, I listened to a lot of Brazilian music, and made some playlists. When I’m working but need something to drown out background distractions, I sometimes listen to instrumental music or non-English songs.

Among the songs I liked well enough to look into was Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Águas de Março (Waters of March). This is an unusual song based on a sort of stream-of-consciousness poem he wrote at his country place, when the torrential rains of March in Brazil made the road impassable. I’ve read that it was once voted the greatest Brazilian song. Jobim also translated the poem into English. I have many renditions of the song, in Portuguese, English and French.

It occurred to me that it might be interesting to make new versions of the poem, with words that evoke people, places or events in my own life. It then occurred to me that it might be fun to engage Ren in a project to make versions based on things we share from time to time, potentially over several years.

It also occurred to me that if an instrumental version of the song is available, it could be used as background (like karaoke) to sing the new poems.

Status 2016-07-15:

  • In the Castle Knob scheme, this project is identified as CK-0-MB-WM.
  • I started by making a document with the original Portuguese lyrics next to Jobim’s English lyrics. I might be able notate the structure the poem should follow to fit the music (emphasis and rhymes).
  • I downloaded an instrumental version of the song by Ernest Coleman. I don’t know if this matches the original or the English version (which has a couple of extra lines).



2016-06-27: Me, Myself, and Us

Me, Myself, and Us

The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being (2014)

by Brian R. Little (-)

This book explains a recent approach to understand human personality. It starts by dismissing the Meyers-Briggs approach as unfounded scientifically. Then three levels of influence on personality are described:

  • biogenic – heritable characteristics that form a biological substrate for personality traits
  • sociogenic – socially developed influences that affect the expression of biogenic traits, based on family or community values
  • idiogenic – an individual’s decisions about how to act, based on personal projects

The traits that define a personality consist of the Big Five (Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism (emotional stability), Openness (to new experiences), Extraversion; the collection abbreviated as CANOE). In addition, a number of other traits are introduced in more or less detail. In parts, the work seems to be compressed, perhaps too much for clarity.

The notion of personal projects is part of Little’s own research interests (i.e., one of his personal projects). He gives examples of people who have biogenic traits, and yet override them to express their opposite when sufficiently motivated.

Little says if asked to make a “Project Dump”, a list of their personal projects, people typically come up with about fifteen, ranging from putting the cat out to life-long projects. He provides a number of dimensions along which people can evaluate their projects, such as their meaning or significance to the person, how they relate to a person’s self-identity, how they are initiated (self or by external influence), efficacy (how well they are carried out), the degree of control the person has over them, how they are shared with or supported by others, and their affect on a person’s emotional life.

The book ends with a chapter on well-being, the expression of the book’s subtitle. It addresses the ways we can look at our projects, their suitability to our personalities, and how we can improve the chances of successfully completing them.


2015-12-21: XinX

I first learned of Ted Nelson’s Xanadu vision from his 1974 book Dream Machines, one-half of a dual book with Computer Lib, and in the later (1981) Literary Machines. I don’t recall when I read these.

Eventually I realized that Nelson wasn’t getting anything into production, and started to fiddle with the idea of implementing something similar myself. I tentatively called my approach XinX. This was based on the cute notion of a recursive acronym, and stood for “XinX is not Xanadu”.

It’s a long shot that I will ever devote much effort on this project, but Nelson’s vision of a hypertext/hypermedia system still has a lot appeal for me. In addition to being a meme, it should support some interesting applications of memetics.


2015-12-21: vision only.


2015-12-04: Wish You Were Here

While Chris and Grant were in Kuala Lumpur, Chris kept a blog at chris.blackstone.name, with the title Wish you were here, and the subtitle Chris and Grant’s adventures in Southeast Asia. It was very well written, and had a very nice selection of photos.

A while after they returned, Susan and I decided to try collecting the blog posts into a book, to surprise her.


She was blown away, and agreed to continue catching up on posts for which she had notes, but hadn’t yet written them out in detail. We’re still waiting for some finishing touches to wrap up this project. We also need to revise the cover collage.


  • 2015-12-04: 90% complete, waiting on Chris.
  • 2015-12-09: Added posts from March, for their trip (with Ren) to Japan.



2015-12-02: Orbiter

I have purchased and flown flight simulators of various types for many years. They are a reasonable substitute for actually piloting a Cessna or Schweitzer.

Several years ago, I found the Orbiter space flight simulator. This is of similar complexity to the commercial flight simulators I’ve tried, but free to play and developed by one man: Dr. Martin Schweiger, a computer science researcher at University College London. Dr. Schweiger (or martins, as he’s known on the Orbiter Forum) retains control of the source code of the core program, but has published interfaces for use of its facilities by add-ons developed by others.

A robust community of users and developers has grown up around the program, using the Orbiter Forum for exchange of news and analysis of issues, and answering the questions of newcomers to this complicated topic. In addition, the community maintains (sporadically) the OrbiterWiki for longer-term articles.

I have ambitions to fly some of the highly realistic spacecraft add-ons (NASSP and Space Shuttle Ultra), as well as some of the science fiction add-ons (Firefly and World of 2001). I’d also like to develop scenarios for certain types of missions, and develop add-on ships to support Two Years At The Hot End. I also think more could be done on the educational side, and have initiated a section of pages on OrbiterWiki under the umbrella title Rocket Science For Amateurs. I hope to expand my own and others’ contributions to that.

Now that I have a mostly-reliable Windows 10 installation (dual boot via Bootcamp on a MacBook Pro), I can restart some of my Orbiter tasks:

  • Appointment in the rings – two DGs, polar and equatorial orbits intersecting in the Cassini gap
  • Appointment with rocks –  same as above, but with a cloud of rocks/asteroids around one or both DGs
  • NASSP Apollo 7
  • NASSP Apollo 12 (when available)
  • Figure out how to make Orb::Connect::Web work in Windows 10, and develop phone/tablet-based panels
  • Firefly/Serenity
  • Asteroid mining
  • RSFA – other articles by Keithth G


  • 2015-12-02: started.
  • 2016-02-15: Added Keithth G’s symplectic integrator article to RSFA on Orbiter-Wiki

2015-11-27: Who Cares About?

This project would be a manifestation of the manifesto in MIAM.

The concept is that a wiki-style website would allow editors to identify specific beliefs, desires, and values (beliefs about desires), and assign them to communities of people who hold them, in various combinations. By making such memes explicit, and getting people to begin referring to the communities that hold them, it ought to be possible to improve the quality of discussion of issues affecting people who hold different views.


2015-11-27: Vision only


2015-11-27: Two Years At The Hot End

On the Orbiter Forum (discussion of topics related to the Orbiter space flight simulator), someone mentioned that they were reading Two Years Before The Mast, by Richard Dana, and that the story might work if set in space. I re-read the book, and tend to agree. I envision it set in late 21C, with asteroid mining having recently become established as an economical activity. The narrator would serve on a ship making passes to/from the asteroid belt, with a nominal two-year tour of duty.

Some of the assumptions I would use:

  • Fusion power plants providing great amounts of power, based on the Bussard polywell ideas, and the boron-proton reaction. The reactors and radiators are at the rear of the ships: the “hot end”.
  • Ships based on a rhombic dodecahedron module, such that any size ship could be built by connecting an appropriate number of modules, or a large ship could be split into smaller units (limited by the number of power plants).
  • 3D printing capability (“makers”) on board to fabricate any material needed, from tanks of raw materials, refined by atom-sorters. Capacity to make panels for modules, if maker operates within an open module (one panel removed).
  • Module panels have flanges to construct modules; attachment points for exterior shielding, sensors, thrusters, structural support, landing gear, etc.; large opening for hatches; smaller opening and channels for liquids and gases; signal and electrical power channels.

Some observations that might influence the story:

  • Asteroid belt characteristics: semi-major axis range 2.1 to 3.3 AU; edges and Kirkwood gaps at 2.1 AU (4:1 resonance with Jupiter), 2.5 (3:1 resonance), 2.82 (5:2), 2.96 (7:3), 3.28 (2:1).
  • Volume of torus 2*pi*pi*r*r*R = 19.2 cubic AU.
  • Total mass ~3×10^21 kg; 1/3rd mass in Ceres; 1/2 mass in Ceres (mass 9×10^20 kg, dia. 950km), Vesta (2.6×10^20kg, 525km), Pallas (2.1×10^20kg, 512km), Hygiea (8.7×10^19kg, 431km); 200 have dia > 100km; 2 million have dia > 1km; eccentricity < 0.4.
  • Density of asteroids with dia > 1km = 2*10^6/19.2 ~10^5 per cubic AU, < 1 per 10^19 km; average distance of 10^6 km.
  • Average speed at a=2.1 AU = ~20km/s; at 3.3 AU = ~16km/s. Typical passing speed 4km/s. To detect potential collision within 24 hours, need detection range of ~4×10^5km.
  • Odds of a belt-crossing probe hitting asteroid is < 1 in a billion.
  • Chief engineers on all ships are called “Scotty” for obscure historical reasons.
  • Learning is in two phases: theory and practice. Theory is learned rapidly (a few days) by use of drugs and tech, but lost unless practiced (which takes much longer).

In addition to the story, I would develop modules and ships for Orbiter, and for printing as desktop models.


  • 2015-11-27: Vision only
  • 2015-02-01: Proof-of-concept 3d-printed rhombic dodecahedron faces/clips (5cm long)


2015-11-27: Swimmin’ Hole – Polliwogs

This would be a sculpture embedded in a transparent plastic sphere (like Star Woman), with an old-style swimming hole, a tree next to it, with a rope for kids to swing out and jump into the water. There would be a number of kids in various stages of the cycle: swinging on the rope, diving into the water, swimming under the water, climbing up the bank below the tree.

The quirky aspect of this is that the kid under the water is actually a frog, and those that are partly in water and partly in air are also partly frog and partly kid. I see the whole scenario about a foot across, so the figures are relatively small, maybe three centimeters; thus they don’t need to be very detailed. They would be 3d modeled and printed to make prototyping and reproduction of the piece feasible.


2015-11-27: Vision only