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Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

cellphone 650 - 200 - 9211
eMail normsperling [at] gmail.com

Norm Sperling’s Great Science Trek: 2014

San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara
Palm Springs
Death Valley
Tucson
El Paso
Corpus Christi
Baton Rouge
Tampa
Everglades
Key West
Winter Star Party, Scout Key
Miami

MARCH 2014:
up the Eastern seaboard
mid-South

APRIL 2014:
near I-40, I-30, and I-20 westbound

MAY 2014:
near US-101 northbound
May 17-18: Maker Faire, San Mateo
May 23-26: BayCon, Santa Clara

California till midJune

JUNE 2014:
Pacific Northwest

JULY 2014:
Western Canada, eastbound

AUGUST 2014:
near the US/Can border, westbound
August 22-on: UC Berkeley

Speaking engagements welcome!
2014 and 2015 itineraries will probably cross several times.

Norman Sperling's blog

ER Clinics

© Norman Sperling, April 3, 2011

Hospital doctors and managers complain that their Emergency Rooms are deluged with patients who do not have regular doctors or health coverage, and whose less-severe problems are more properly cared for by clinics than Emergency Rooms. So many patients come that ERs are often diverted from their intended purpose. This problem has remained unfixed for decades.

A solution is not medical, but a matter of design.

Set up clinics adjacent to ERs. Put the triage nurse in front of both the ER and the clinic. Patients who really do need the ER get ushered right in. Patients not ailing enough to earn ER admission also get ushered right in ... to the clinic that is also right there. They would neither know nor care that the Emergency Room experts think they're not unhealthy enough.

Staff the clinics with cheaper clinician-type professionals and equipment. Bill clinic patients as a clinic would. Let the ER just handle severe emergencies.

Steampunk Style

© Norman Sperling, March 28, 2011

Last weekend's Steampunk convention really dazzled in style.

"Plain" and "Steampunk" don't intersect. Look at the details on the finest Queen Anne Victorian houses at images.google.com or flickr.com. I saw goggles with wonderful elaborate brasswork, the 2 sides assertively different. Steampunkers make fantastic corsetry, hats, featherware, gearworks, brassworks, glassworks ... shiny and colorful and intricate and brash. It was such a feast for the eyes that I wandered the dealers and halls agog.

Practically all of it came from handcrafters. A few smallish companies create T-shirts, and publish the fiction that drives the genre. No big corporations, no mass production.

Practically the only person who arrived there not wearing showy goggles (Steampunk's universal icon) was me. I'd intended to buy some anyway, but that made it imperative. I bought. Now they ride the brim of my pith helmet. Not that it matters in steampunkdom, but it's a real pith helmet, that is built out of pith (a natural styrofoam-like substance from certain reeds). I bought it in Nairobi in 1980 while chasing a solar eclipse.

Genuine Victorian stuff does not attract the Steampunkers. A dealer with antiquarian microscopes, books, rulers, and slide rules had very few customers. The dealers who sold a lot have fantastically elaborated, gaudy goods. Their late-1800s aesthetic is wildly embroidered; the real thing itself is way too sedate.

Enormous elaboration continued into the 1900s (think Duesenbergs in the 1920s and '30s). Then the tides of fashion flipped toward sleek, hiding detailed inner workings under shells of each year's favorite shapes.

Telescopes, microscopes, cars, appliances, and a host of other complex devices still hide all their intricacies. While electronic circuit boards remain ugly and static, pipes, chains, gears, belts, and other moving stuff can be made attractive and interesting. It's time to bring those out of hiding, shine them up, and celebrate the harmony of their workings. Dyson has led vacuum cleaners this way, and Harley-Davidson never left, so many more should follow.

Be an Expert

© Norman Sperling, March 20, 2011

Be a genuine expert in something. Something you really like, that you've read everything about, seen everything about, and talked to other experts about. Maybe part of your hobby. Maybe something you have collected and examined samples of. It need not connect with your profession, but it could.

Improve the Wikipedia articles on and around your subject. And DMOZ and About, etc. Review books on the subject for Amazon, newsletters, etc. Become one of the "names" to be included wherever the subject comes up.

Give a few talks about it, perhaps at hobby clubs and related conventions, as widely as your circumstances permit.

Develop a niche product, or market someone else's. Make it the very most useful for the people who care a lot about your topic. You can make a few dollars from selling it, but you'll make more on increased reputation.

Write a few articles about aspects of it. Publish them in hobbyist newsletters, blogs, magazines, or wherever you can. If you write a lot of things about it, such as having your own authoritative blog, gather up your accumulated writings, and figure out how they could be segments of a book. Figure out what other segments such a book would need, and write and publish those as articles and blog posts. Then self-publish your book using new print-on-demand or short-run printing services. You no longer need much capital, or a commercial publisher. (You DO still need a good editor and a good cover artist and a marketer, and they need to get paid professionally.) You'll sell some copies, but more importantly, you'll be an author. When I give a copy of a book I've written to a potential client, I almost always get the assignment. The copy costs me a few bucks, but I get back hundreds or thousands of times as much. I also get treated better: "author" is a wonderful status.

All this gets your name "out there". That's a great status to have, no matter how off-the-beaten-path your subject may be. If you're easy to find, such as via search engines, you may get queries about the topic. Answer them as an expert. Some of those answers can be reworked into blog posts, talks, and book segments.

Once in a while, a topic that's usually obscure hits the headlines. When it does, media scramble to find some expert to talk to. That's you. You'll get your 15 minutes of fame.

And once in a great while, some big operation needs your expertise, and therefore needs you. This can open up consulting and freelancing and even employment possibilities.

Good luck!

Picture-rich, ad-rich websites

© Norman Sperling, March 13, 2011

Setting up this blog not only lets me give my take on various issues, it lets me air a 30-year accumulation of writings that should still be read. Search engines find them for readers who are interested in their topics. Otherwise, they'll turn up only rarely when someone digs through the old magazines they originally appeared in. Sure enough, the "hit-counter" shows that my old essays already have hundreds of hits, and while some of those are from the spiders that crawl the web to construct the search engines, I'm confident that quite a lot are from real humans who read and consider my writings.

In addition to writing those essays, I've spent decades taking pictures, largely of Science-related scenes. A few of my photos have artistic merit, many have scientific value, and a lot could help teachers teach. For now, however, my pictures sit in their binders, dark and silent, helping nobody.

Not just me! My friend Carl photographs sundials and sky phenomena. My friend John photographs celestial objects. My artist-friend Guy draws and paints beautiful and useful perspectives. My late friend Lu took hundreds of the best sunset pictures I know - where are they now? My late friend Carter photographed tens of thousands of great astronomical scenes, a trove too big for his heirs to organize yet. Thousands and thousands of people have such troves of useful pictures sitting unused.

Here's what we should do:

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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