Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fossil genome reveals ancestral link

A distant cousin raises questions about human origins.

The ice-age world is starting to look cosmopolitan. While Neanderthals held sway in Europe and modern humans were beginning to populate the globe, another ancient human relative lived in Asia, according to a genome sequence recovered from a finger bone in a cave in southern Siberia. A comparative analysis of the genome with those of modern humans suggests that a trace of this poorly understood strand of hominin lineage survives today, but only in the genes of some Papuans and Pacific islanders.

More here:

And Discovery News:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Consider Phlebas

Okay, I finally got my hands on a copy of Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks and enjoyed it immensely. The story is great, lots of really cool bits and despite the large size of the volume, it's all very fast paced. I love the ambiguity of it all. My one gripe: Most of the characters are total assholes. I found the snippy little robot to be the most likable character.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More on Human-Neanderthal Hybridization

Just read two articles concerning Human-Neanderthal hybridization.

The first was in Discovery News about remains they've found in China with a mix of baseline human and neanderthal features.

The second more amusing article in Scientific American is about Ozzy Osbourne's genomes containing Neanderthal hints of DNA.

Monday, October 25, 2010

House of Suns

Can't read as much as I used to and my book queue is getting longer. I was going to start Consider Phlebas but someone checked it out the second it hit the shelf... Bastards!

I loved Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series so when my library got House of Suns, I jumped on it. I'm so glad I picked this up. What a fantastic read. It is one of my new favorites.
The characters are all interesting, likeable and real people (yeah, even the robots.) and the ideas and adventure are just massive, on insane timescales. I loved it and I want more.
I finished the first draft of my Man-Kzin story and I'm pretty proud of how it came out. What a fun universe to play in.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Just when I thought I was done with Larry Niven and his Known Space universe, I managed to track down his short story, Fly-by-Night, highlighting the planet Sheathclaws. whose scant mentions teased me while reading Ringworld's Children.

The Kzin tend to be pretty one dimensional, like the Klingons in Star Trek, but the titular character, Fly-by-Night, is totally rounded and interesting. A latent(?) Kzin telepath born and raised on a remote planet where humans and Kzin live in peace (and play video games and go hand gliding) have given him the best of both worlds. He's got all the temper and cultural quirks of a Kzintosh, but he cracks jokes and sips cappuccinos. My one gripe with this story is the poor handling of population genetics (which Niven treats well in the Ringworld series) I mean Sheathclaws was populated by one male Kzin and six females (the humans are out of the equation because they can't interbreed), seven individuals does not make a viable population! A few generations of inbreeding would give Fly-by-Night all sorts of health problems. Trust me, as a Floridian, I'm all too aware of what a tiny population can do to big cats! It would've been easier if instead of picking up a Jotoki slave on Fafnir, Fly-by-Night would've been trying to either pick up more females or adopt young Kzinti to boost the gene pool on Sheathclaws and then transport them aboard Odysseus frozen like Shaffer's family.

Anyway, far from sating my curiosity about Sheathclaws this story has made me want to read more about this damned boondocks planet! I found out this is sort of a sequel to Hal Colebatch's Telepath's Dance, which deals with Fly-by-Night's ancestor Shadow and the events that led to the founding of this odd world. So I'll probably track that down, but seriously Larry Niven and Hal Colebatch should get together and write a novel exploring this weird corner of Known Space a little further. It's much too cool to go to waste.


I finally got to read the superb Telepath's Dance and it has inspired me to write a Man-Kzin story of my own. Should be fun.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ringworld Series

Just finished Larry Niven's Ringworld series and I enjoyed most of it quite a lot. The two high points for me were Ringworld Engineers and Ringworld's Children (the latter being my favorite). I beleive both these books did the best job of forwarding the mythos while telling complete and interesting stories. The third book The Ringworld Throne was disappointing and the main characters are reduced to minor roles and the book becomes way too concerned with rishathra (inter-species sex). Over all, a fun read and I loved Niven's huge brilliant ideas. Also, even though he's not given any credit for 3D characters, I grew to love Louis Wu. He's the most un-action hero protagonist I've ever read. His passive role is almost zen-like and over the course of the series it makes you wonder if isn't him, and not Teela Brown, that's been bred for luck.

I have to also mention that as much as I like the Kzin (humanoid warrior tigers from space) the Perison's Puppeteers have to be the most original alien species I've come across in fiction.

I'm really glad I visited Nevin's classic Known Space Universe through the Ringworld series and although I probably won't track down and read every book and short story set in this vast and complex universe... I've been left intrigued by mentions of the planet Sheathclaws, a colony of human and Kinti telepaths. So if I find a novel or short story showcasing this world I'll definitely pick it up.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Exo-Planet found in Habitable Zone

This is amazing (if not totally unexpected) it seems like the first Earth-like planet orbiting within the cushy Goldilocks zone has been spotted. I know that at the moment we have no telescopes that can see it or probes that can make the 20 light year trip over there, but I would love to get a glimpse of Gliese 581g.

Here are some links:


Here's a cool interview with discoverer Steve Vogt:

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm 32!

I turned 32 today! Man, time is going by so fast. Basically I spent all weekend eating and celebrating my birthday... having a huge breakfast at Cracker Barrel, devouring burgers at Fudrucker's Saturday. Marge's mom made some awesome tacos on Sunday.

I got an external hard drive for all my pictures and DVD boxsets of Fringe and Big Bang Theory... all I need now it time to watch them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Family Portrait

We finally caved and decided to get one of those cheesy family portraits done at the JCPenny Studio, which turned out really well, the photographer was really nice and patient (since Sophie wasn't having any of it) and the pics came out great. It's nice to have pictures of the three of us. Usually one of us is missing cause we're taking the pic.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sophie's Baptism

Originally uploaded by alexthoth
I'm not particularly religious but Marge is and there was no doubt that Sophie was going to be Baptized Catholic. I really liked the ceremony though and she behaved absolutely wonderful. (We thought she was going to wail the whole time like Damien in the Omen.)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sophie at 6 Months

first words
Originally uploaded by alexthoth
Sophie's been very talkative lately saying mama and dada a lot. Also, went to the doctor yesterday and she's 18.12 lbs. and 27 ½ inches long.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Alex dancing with Lauren
Originally uploaded by alexthoth
Who would've thought I'd be dancing 15s in my 30s! Still, I had a great time drinking mojitos and hanging out with my cousins... any excuse to bring the family together is a good one. The 15s itself turned out awesome. Loved the Cuban theme!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Family History

I've been working on a digital scrapbook for my parents and I found this old photo of my great grandfather from the turn of the century (last century). Jose Ignacio Hernandez was the son of Canary Islander immigrants (Jose Antonio Hernandez and Encarnacion De la Nuez) who died in an ambush during the war for Cuba's independence. A relative of mine in Texas still has his war machetes!

I was also able to go back one more generation and get Jose Ignacio's grandparent's names (my great great great parents): Jose Sebastian Hernandez and Isabel Rodriguez Guerra.

Monday, August 23, 2010

9 years

al & mai
Originally uploaded by alexthoth
Today Marge and I celebrate 9 years together. (2 and a half married) and it's been awesome... here's to 9 more years.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

General Update

Man, I haven't had time for anything geeky now that Sophie is much more active and demanding 100% of our attention. I haven't been able to see any TV and only 2 movies. I have been able to read though (usually at 6:30 am before she wakes up) because it's quiet and I can do it in short sessions (10 pages here, 5 pages there).

So far I've read: Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, Larry Niven's Legacy of Heorot and I just started Larry Niven's Ringworld.

When I get done with Ringworld I'm going to hunt down and read Iain M. Banks' Consider Phlebas, which I heard was really worth the read.

Monday, June 21, 2010

My 1st Father's Day!

Geek Dad
Originally uploaded by alexthoth
What a great day. Ate way too much though... still digesting.

Friday, June 4, 2010

SpaceX does it!

So glad SpaceX was able to successfully launch the Falcon 9. Can't wait for them to get Dragon up there later this year.

I really do think this is the turning point for human space activity... These are the guys that will get us off this rock!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fringe is my new favorite show

It's funny because when it started I gave it a 5 episode try and dismissed it as your sub-par police procedural show (a la C.S.I. & Bones) with a slight sci-fi bent. Every episode followed the same predictable format: There's an unexplainable crime, Walter rambles something cryptic, Peter applies snark, Olivia asks stupid questions, then Peter puts his bullshit aside and decodes his father's insane drivel and they all solve the case. I tuned out and never looked back.

But due to the constant claims from people who know me that I should watch the show and that I would love it, I bought the box set and watched the whole first season and though my assessment for the first half of the season remains intact I admit it got a whole lot better. I think they shed their new show timidity (and their C.S.I. veneer) and embraced their X-Files heritage. This show, along with Lost and Battlestar Galactica (both now over) is great sci-fi for adults. I can't wait to watch season two. Here's hoping they don't drop the ball.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Marge's First Mother's Day

Sophie & Mai
Originally uploaded by alexthoth
Wow, a year ago we weren't really thinking about being parents and yesterday we celebrated our first Mother's Day. We all had a nice time of course Sophie stole the show (as it should be) and all her grandparent and great grandmother jockeyed to hold her.

Can't wait for my first Father's Day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm a Hybrid

Just read the article: Neanderthals may have interbred with humans over at which simultaneously blew me away and confirmed what I've always thought. Here's an excerpt:

The researchers arrived at that conclusion by studying genetic data from 1,983 individuals from 99 populations in Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Sarah Joyce, a doctoral student working with Long, analyzed 614 microsatellite positions, which are sections of the genome that can be used like fingerprints. She then created an evolutionary tree to explain the observed genetic variation in microsatellites. The best way to explain that variation was if there were two periods of interbreeding between humans and an archaic species, such as Homo neanderthalensis or H. heidelbergensis.

"This is not what we expected to find," says Long.

So Africans are the only true Homo sapiens and everyone else is a mutt? I admit I am not an anthropologist or a geneticist so forgive my pseudo-scientific ramblings here, but this makes total sense to me. Europeans and Asians have been out of Africa for only a relatively short time (50,000 - 100,000 years) which to me isn't enough time to develop all the drastic physical differences between them. But if they hybridized with these other humans who had a lot longer to developed these different traits and then selected for them it makes more sense.

Update: The newly sequenced Neanderthal genome confirms the above. People of European and Asian descent have from 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal DNA.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Barry Allen or Wally West?

I was recently asked which was my favorite Flash and I instantly said, Wally West. Not that Jay Garrick doesn't have any die-hard fans out there, but Flash fans pretty much split into two camps: Team Barry and Team Wally.

Why did I pick Wally without a second thought? Two reasons:

1) Wally is a much more interesting character. Bare with me here... I see Barry Allen as a Jesus Christ figure, he was pure and perfect from the get go and the best thing he did was sacrifice himself to save us. Wally West is more of a Buddha figure. He's not perfect. In fact, in the beginning, he's a bit of a brat. He has to work to better himself and he tries different things and different paths. After he attains enlightenment by entering the speed force, he uses he new understanding to continue helping humanity. Both stories are great, but Wally is more relateable a character (to me anyways.)

2) Wally and I have grown up together. Wally went from Kid Flash to Flash around the time I was in middle school. He grew into the role of the Flash and became the best Flash while I was in college. He got married and had kids around the time I did. So if I seem biased it's cause I've spent more time with Wally West over the years.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New Space Vision

On Thursday Obama spoke about his new space vision. I'm not going to go into it cause it's been all over the web for the past three days, but if you've read some of my other space-related posts you'll know I totally agree with it.

Let the private companies deal with shuttling people to and from low Earth orbit and let the big government funds take us to more distant locations. Will it work? Probably not, but we know the old way wasn't working cause we haven't gone anywhere in some 30 years. At least this has a chance.

If it works, I envision privately built ships taking us to privately built stations and bases in orbit and on the moon with NASA ships exploring asteroids and Mars and other far-off targets. If it doesn't work we'll be exactly where we are now so no harm no foul.

Some links:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sleeping Through the Night!

Originally uploaded by alexthoth
Okay, Sophie's a bit older than a month now and she's slept through the night (in her own crib) for two nights in a row. This is a major milestone for us. I hope this is a new trend. If it is, the worst part's over. Woo!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nocturnal Baby Log, Stardate: -313148.85

Our little fam
Originally uploaded by alexthoth
Baby Sophie is officially one week old and she had her first away mission around the block.

We seem to have worked out a system to control the baby at night with Marge and I taking turns and allowing us each to get small amounts of sleep. We don't know if this will work tomorrow night as we've had such systems before only to fail the following night... the baby is like the Borg. She constantly adapts to our defenses.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Finally got to meet Sophie!

Originally uploaded by alexthoth
Born: Feb. 16th (Fat Tuesday) at 4:30 p.m.
Weight: 7 lbs. 8 oz.
Length: 20 1/2 inches
Sign: Aquarius/Tiger

Name meaning:
Sophie: Wisdom
Aden: Little flame
Hernandez: Bold voyager

She has Marge's hair and eyes and my complexion and mouth (supposedly) and a baby button nose which will only last her til her teens if her genes have anything to say about it.

Right now, Marge and I are beat, but we're getting ready to bring her home.

Monday, February 15, 2010

This is it...

Alex & Mai
Originally uploaded by alexthoth
We're approaching the home stretch! Any day now Sophie will be born. I thought I'd be more nervous, but really at this point, I just want her to come out so we can meet her. She's due Thursday (the 18th), but I don't think Marge is going to last that long before popping.

Next post will hopefully include a pic of Sophie.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

2010 - 24 Stories Challenge!

At the beginning of the year I set myself the challenge of writing two strange short stories a month and put them on my new blog Ibis Ink. Since this is just a fun exercise and I won't even try to publish, I can crank them out. Don't know if I'm going to be able to keep this up once the baby is born but if all goes according the plan I should have 24 tales at the end of the year.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Patternist Series

I'm a big fan of Octavia Butler and I loved her Xenogenesis Trilogy, which I read reprinted at Lilith's Brood a few years back. So after overdosing on the wonderful Hanish Cycle novels I wanted something different but I was still hankering her good old sci-fi that dealt with social issues. I picked up the Patternist Series (collected in Seed to Harvest) and really enjoyed it, especially the brilliant first half composed of Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind.

If you've never read Octavia Butler, I highly recommend her work. Xenogenesis is just awesome and Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind are must reads. My wife also recommends Kindred and Fledgling.

Anyone read her Parable series? How was it?

Friday, January 1, 2010


Originally uploaded by alexthoth
On the last day of 2009, Marge and I went to take pictures at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. It basically turned into a Marge photo shoot with us trying to do new and interesting things with her scarf.