Saturday, July 31, 2010

Four Planets

In today's Astronomy Picture of the Day, one can see four planets.
Current Reads...More or Less

A generally accurate list of books found on Mount Currentlybeingread or the current reads folder of my eBook reader gadget.

(Updated on September 13, 2010.)

Dan Abnett: Ravenor—The Omnibus

Christopher Anvil: Interstellar Patrol

Victor Appleton: Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle

Rick Atkinson: An Army at Dawn; The Long Gray Line

Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

Peter S. Beagle: Mirror Kingdoms

Gregory Benford: Across the Sea of Stars

Leigh Brackett: Martian Quest

David Brin: Earth

Lois McMaster Bujold: Miles Errant

Paul Cartledge: Thermopylae—The Battle That Changed the World

Paul Chafe: Genesis

A. Bertram Chandler: The Inheritors; The Big Black Mark

Bruce Chatwin: In Patagonia

Glen Cook: A Cruel Wind; A Passage at Arms

Larry Correia: Monster Hunter Vendetta (eARC)

L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt: Tales from Gavagan's Bar

David Drake: The Complete Hammer's Slammers, Volume 01; What Distant Deeps; Redliners

Eric Flint: 1632; The Course of Empire (w/K.D. Wentworth)

Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Matt Gallagher: Kaboom—Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War

Raymond Z. Gallun: The Planet Strappers

Marc Gascoigne & Christian Dunn (editors): Let the Galaxy Burn

Mark Geston: The Books of the Wars

William Gibson: Idoru

Alexis Gilliland: The Revolution from Rosinante

Goodwin, H.L. (as John Blaine): The Caves of Fear

Heinz Guderian: Panzer Leader

Edmond Hamilton: The Weapon from Beyond

Peter F. Hamilton: Night's Dawn Trilogy

Cecilia Holland: Floating Worlds

R.F. Jones: This Island Earth

Sebastian Junger: War

Donald Kagan: The Peloponnesian War

Robert D. Kaplan: Imperial Grunts

Rudyard Kipling: Departmental Ditties and Barracks-Room Ballads; The Kipling Reader; Verses

Tom Kratman: A Desert Called Peace

John Lambshead: Lucy's Blade

Stieg Larsson: The Girl Who Played With Fire

T.E. Lawrence: Seven Pillars of Wisdom—A Triumph

Murray Leinster: Med Ship

Berndard Lewis: The Crisis of Islam

R.A. MacAvoy: Twisting the Rope

Barry Malzburg: Breakfast in the Ruins

George Mann: Ghosts of Manhattan

George R.R. Martin: A Clash of Kings

Paul McAuley: The Quiet War; Gardens of the Sun

Anne McCaffrey: Dragonflight; Dragonquest; Sassinak (w/Elizabeth Moon); The Death of Sleep (w/Judy Lynn Nye)

China Mieville: The Scar

Sandy Mitchell: Innocence Proves Nothing

Walter Moers: The City of Dreaming Books

Elizabeth Moon: Herris Serrano

Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway: We Were Soldiers Once...And Young

Andre Norton: Warlock (omnibus of Storm Over Warlock, Ordeal in Otherware, Forerunner Foray).

William H. Patterson, Jr.: Robert A. Heinlein: Volume 01: Learning Curve, 1907-1948.

Jerry Pournelle: Exile & Glory; The Mercenary

Tim Powers: The Annubis Gates, The Drawing of the Dark, The Stress of Her Regard, On Stranger Tides, A Soul in a Bottle, Declare, Three Days to Never, Last Call, Earthquake Weather, Expiration Date, Secret Histories (edited and compiled by John Berlyne)

Terry Pratchett: Moving Pictures

Steven Pressfield: Gates of Fire

Cherie Priest: Boneshaker, Clementine

Mary Roach: Packing for Mars—The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Linda Robinson: Tell Me How This Ends

John Scalzi: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded

Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle: Higher Education

E.B. Sledge: With the Old Breed

Lewis Sorley: A Better War

Ryk Spoor: Grand Central Arena

Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash

Charles Stross: Halting State

Mark L. Van Name: One Jump Ahead

Patrick Vanner: Ragnarok

Various: Grantville Gazette, Volume 01, Ring of Fire

T. Von Harbou: Metropolis

James Webb: Fields of Fire

David Weber: In Enemy Hands

Liz Williams: Snake Agent

Mike Williamson: Better to Beg Forgiveness; Freehold; The Weapon; Contact with Chaos; Do Unto Others

Gene Wolfe: Shadow & Claw

George Zebrowski: The Omega Point Trilogy

FTC Disclaimer: These books, paper and electronic, were 100% self-purchased. Take that FTC!

Friday, July 30, 2010


Kids and parents. The endless chain.
Attack Ships Off the Shoulder of Orion

Young stars in the Orion Nebula (M42).
Wild, Wild Planet

Conception of Comet Wild 2.
Do. The. Math.

The perfect handshake. You'll never be able to resist a salescritter again.
Lost Cat

The dangers of having co-workers help you with a personal quest.
Health Warning

Pet owners should wash their hands after handling their pets or the rodents they eat.
Artist in Residence

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Robert McCall.

I've had a few bad days. Some worse than others. With the passing of time, most can be looked back upon and have their edges fade.

Bad days are all relative. Some are worse than others. Heh.
Elapsed Eclipse

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the recent solar eclipse (in a series of time sequenced shots) from the viewpoint of a beach on Easter Island.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

From Dusk to Shadow at the Rock

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a panoramic shot at Ayers Rock, showing sunset and dusk to the arrival of shadows. You all know the The Rock is really a spaceship, right (insert obscure cultural reference here).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another favorite part of the sky: Messier Object 20, the Trifid Nebula.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Little Dumbell

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier Object 76, the "Little Dumbell Nebula"...
That Darned Dog

Take a look at the profile picture. See that dog draped across me? That would be Miss Mocha (a.k.a. New Dog Mark 4.0), a rescue Doberman/Labrador mix.

Sigh. What to do with her?

Don't know what happened when I went out to take The Young Lady to camp, but when I returned I found five book shelves (double thick) emptied, magazines everywhere, notebooks (some partly used) scattered and lots of damage. Dustjackets shredded, books chewed, some completely destroyed. A new meaning to "you are in the dog house". I put her outside as I am mad enough to raise hands, and that is something I try to avoid with a dog that is already "scarred" from her previous owner.

Most expensive replacement (found so far on web) of the most damaged—$250.00. Least expensive replacement of those most damaged—$75.00 A very damn expensive trip to take the kid to summer camp. Mocha, you better stay out of my way today.

Her only saving throw so far is that the Ted Sturgeon short story collections she destroyed appear to be being reprinted in September, so although they won't be the prime condition FIRST EDITIONS anymore, at least I can replace these for a "reasonable" amount of money (ten volumes, sigh).

Something must have set her off, because it was a departure like any other this morning, nothing different. Sigh, this dog has cost me about five times her "donation cost" in books.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


How many holes would it take to fill the Albert Hall?
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Anniversary of the last Apollo flight passed recently. I still have fond memories of the special issue of Analog published around that time with an installment of Jerry Pournelle's future history (with a cover by a cosmonaut) and a "legacy of the ATSP" article.

Moon program? What moon program? Soviet Union never had moon program, is mistake by your bumbling CIA.

Very interesting to see the nuclear launch vehicle in here!
Hudson River School

Frederic Church of of the Hudson River School of art contributes today's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Harlan Ellison on audiobooks and audio drama (his own and others). Lousy audio quality in this 2006 interview posted at SFFaudio, but fascinating subject matter. Put on the headphones and listen carefully. It is worth it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Capsule

Huh. Is it just me or does Boeing's proposed capsule look an awful like Orion and Apollo?

No, not the beverage. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us the corona, or crown, of the Sun, during the recent total solar eclipse.

Monday, July 19, 2010


I was informed that when my wife and The Young Lady got home after the tire mishap (still haven't made it to the doctor!), the birds were found in the house, outside the cage. They have figured out how to open the doors, untwisting twisties and untying string. Next up, fire, hunting/gathering and tool use!
Come to Ontario Lacus

Nope, not a vacation spot in Canada. Try Titan, enigmatic moon of Saturn!
Wide Field

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice one. A wide-field view of one of my favorite places in the sky.
Daedalus Updated

The British Interplanetary Society's probe to the stars lives (and is getting an update)!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Galactic Collision!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows (what I think is) a multi-lightwave combined image of the Antenna Galaxies in collision.
Second Test

The second Falcon IX is being readied for assembly. The schedule is for a September 2010 launch, and the flight will include a shakedown of the Dragon capsule (currently slated for cargo, but can be used for crew/passengers).
Fred's Reading Report (May and June 2010)

Hey, it's halfway through July...what the? Real Life (TM), folks, Real Life (TM).

The Year in Shorts stands around 1042 entries, mostly audio, but is hopelessly outdated. Still a good number, both in terms of entries and showing you how much time is spent on the road these days!

Books? I've read a few...

Robert Lynn Asprin: Another Fine Myth.

Anthony Bourdain: Medium Raw.

Lois McMaster Bujold: Shards of Honor, Barrayar, The Warrior's Apprentice, The Vor Game.

Jim Butcher: Storm Front, Fool Moon.

Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Craig M. Mullaney: The Unforgiving Minute.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Tolkien Reader.

Fifty-two books for the year-to-date. A pretty good number. The odd thing is that it really hasn't clicked up since July started. Oh, I'm reading a number of books. I just find myself increasingly fragmented by other things, so I have not been reading as much. So I have a number of half-completed books, but only a couple finished since the end of June. Time to stop starting new books and start finishing old I have a sneaking suspicion that I have finished a few and forgotten to enter them into "the system".

FTC Disclaimer: If you haven't figured it out by now...all purchased...if they were gifts, they were given to me by people who also spent money to purchase them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Medium Raw

Anthony Bourdain; Medium Raw (Harper Collins; 2010; ISBN 978-0-06-171894-6; cover photography by Melanie Dunea).

This book is billed (in some venues) as a sequel to Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, but I keep having the sneaking suspicion that the "chapters" are less a unified book than a series of re-billed individual articles and the occasional transcript of a verbal discussion.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy the book: when Bourdain is good, he is very good (on the other hand, there seem to be a required number of curse words for each chapter, and some of the chapters are more uneven than others); it is just that the book did not feel like a well-crafted multi-course meal. Approach it as a series of essays, pick it open and open it at random and you'll get as much (more?) out of it than a linear approach.

I'm not sure if I'd want Bourdain in my kitchen. But I'd love to tour a town or country with him.

Made up of: The Sit Down; Selling Out; The Happy Ending; The Rich Eat Differently Than You and Me; I Drink Alone; So You Wanna Be a Chef; Virtue; The Fear; Lust; Meat; Lower Education; I'm Dancing; "Go Ask Alice";
Heroes and Villans; Alan Richman Is a Douchebag; "I Lost on Top Chef"; "It's Not You, It's Me"; The Fury; My Aim is True; The Fish-on-Monday Thing; Still Here.

Counts as 21 entries in the 2010 Year in Shorts.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was 100% a gift. From my wife, who purchased it. Take that, FTC!
River Lens

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day, shows NGC 1532,located in the constellation Eridanus ("The River").

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fields of Battle

War is repugnant to the people of the United States; yet it is war that has made their nation and it is through their power to wage war that they dominate the world. Americans are proficient in war in the same way that they are proficient at work. It is a task, sometimes a duty. Americans have worked at war since the seventeenth century, to protect themselves from the Indians, to win their independence from George III, to make themselves one country, to extinguish autocracy and dictatorship in the world outside. It is not their favored form of work. Left to themselves, Americans build, cultivate, bridge, dam, canalize, invent, teach, manufacture, think, write, lock themselves in struggle with eternal challenges that man has chosen to confront, and with an intensity not known elsewhere on the globe. Bidden to make war their work, Americans shoulder the burden with intimidating purpose, There is, I have said, an American mystery, the nature of which I only begin to perceive. If I were obliged to define it, I would say that it is the ethos—masculine, pervading, unrelenting—of work as an end in itself. War is a form of work, and America makes war, however reluctantly, however unwillingly, in a particularly workmanlike way. I do not love war; but I love America.

(John Keegan, Fields of Battle)
Extreme Cuisine

The mind boggles. Is there nothing that can't be deep-fried?
Ghost in the Machine

Best. Book. Review. Ever.
The Rocket in Interplanetary Space

Reusable spacecraft, missions to the Moon and Mars...ah, the bright dreams of the early (Soviet) space age!
The Enemy of My Enemy

We all use math everyday.
The Shape of Space

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 6188, emission nebula, molecular clouds and more!
Shuttle Up

It looks like the shuttle is heading towards an extension...of one mission. Not sure how much of a "gap closer" you could really call this.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Engine

Here's a shot of the Aerojet AJ26 engine being delivered for testing. It will be incorporated into a new rocket (Taurus II) which is being slated to help deliver cargo to the ISS.
Composite Sun

A combination of the Sun as seen in the recent solar eclipse plus an image from the LASCO instrument on the venerable SOHO orbiter.
Grand Central Arena

Somehow overlooked in all the confusion and madness of appearance by Ryk E. Spoor at John Scalzi's Whatever pimping his newest book, Grand Central Arena.

What more do you need to know than Ryk writes really cool hard SF, Tuckerizes fans and that this book is inspired by none other than E.E. "Doc" Smith's Skylark of Space series?

Go forth and purchase. Sooner rather than later!
Shaking Off the Dust

Yep, back from the dead. Again. There will be some dusting, some sanding and the like. Lots of family stuff, as usual, plus a co-worker who has been out on disability. So you have a person with 0.5 hours taking up many of the tasks of a 1.0 hours person (fulltime, in other words), while maintaining his 0.5 status. Let's see...1.5 person tasks in 0.5 person equals???

I'll try to catch up, even if just a bit at a time. Much will be reposting of stuff from Ye Olde Days, when this blog was incorporated under one guise or the other, or even where I posted on other sites. In other cases, I need to go through and find new links for old stuff (David Drake, for example, recently upgraded his site due to the efforts of his webmistress, so I need to relink stuff).

Stay tuned. Still around, even in a half-baked sense.
Blind Spots

It always amazes me how ignorant people are at reality or as part of their "face". I came across two examples of this recently, one in terms of science fiction and politics and one in terms of science and politics.

In the world of science fiction, James P. Hogan recently died. Hogan got his start writing fairly "hard" science fiction in the late 1970's for Del Rey, with Inherit the Stars (free electronic version available via that link), and attained moderate mid-list success before Del Rey imploded. He eventually moved many of his titles over to Baen Books, where he published a number of reprints, new books, fiction and non-fiction.

As time went by, either Hogan adapted more and more weirdness or allowed weirdness that he always had become more and more public. Even in Inherit the Stars you can see how he rebelled against "the establishment" by incorporating elements of Immanuel Velikovsky's theories on the formation of the solar system. In his essays and on his website, you could see rantings against history and politics, especially when it intersected with science.

Now anybody moderately active in science fiction...attending conventions, reading message boards, visiting websites and the like, should have been aware of Hogan's beliefs. But it astounds me how several prominent members in the field have said things along the lines of "Gee, I should have confronted him on this" or "I never knew what a slime he was" this reality folks, or are you pushing an agenda? Are you really as pure as you are implying you are? Have you no sin?

I don't particularly hold with many (any perhaps) of Hogan's views, but it seems to me that we're throwing out the baby with the bathwater. First, you can separate the person from his books and still enjoy the books. Second, while several people have been telling tales out of school, others have said how nice he was, how he gave advice to new writer's, how he helped one person or the other get started in a writing career.

Sigh... What is the reality? What is the real face of Hogan? Of his detractors?

In other news, it seemed that Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator was charged with reaching out to the Muslim World (wherever that is) and getting them involved. Or maybe he wasn't. In any case, something that was "broken" a while back was seized by one political faction, spun wildly out of control and then simmered while the White House failed to act and react. And when they reacted, they did so badly, as they have done with just about everything related to NASA this past year (just scroll through NASA Watch for a number of examples). What is the reality? What was the real directive? We'll probably never know. In the meantime, the shuttle is being shut down, Constellation is canned, no return to the Moon, we have a manned spaceflight "gap" again, commercial space is fractured and we'll soon be overpaying the Russians for taxi service to a station we mostly built because of political stupidity...which has been around for years, and overlooked by all those screaming about alleged directives.

Sigh. Again.
Mountaintop and Sunset

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day continues the look at the recent solar eclipse with a view of the eclipse at sunset from the Andes Mountains.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shuttle Down

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a solar eclipse on Easter Island. I still remember the "Lee Correy" book Shuttle Down and its appearance in Analog.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Space Review

Another round up of articles from the past several issues of The Space Review.

From the June 7, 2010 issue: Jeff Foust looks at the successful launch of the Falcon 9. Dwayne A. Day looks at the latest revival for space-based solar power.

From the June 14, 2010 issue: Anthony Young looks at the possibility of a new generation of heavy-lift engines. Jeff Foust looks at the quality of the "debate" over space policy in Washington, D.C. Frank Stratford gives us another chapter in the human vs. robot exploration of Mars debate (hint: both are needed). And, Jeff Foust looks at a documentary detailing Richard Garriott's private expedition to the ISS.

From the June 21, 2010 issue: Jeff Foust looks at a book detailing the efforts to televise the Apollo missions. Bigger, better, faster? Sam Dinkin looks at the success of private efforts vs. the efforts of whole countries when it comes to launch vehicles. Jeff Foust looks at another private effort: SpaceShipOne. And, Dan Lester looks at destinations for our new new space program. And the debate over those destinations.

From the June 28, 2010 issue: Dwayne A. Day criticizes Sam Dinkin's look at launch efforts by private vs. government organizations. Wayne Eleazer looks at the scrapping of launch vehicles. S. Alan Stern looks at commercial crew launches and the exploration of space, will the one help the other? And, Dwayne A. Day takes a fictional look at a wide-ranging Japanese space.

From the July 6, 2010 issue: Jeff Foust looks at a NASA video game about a moon base set 15 years in the future. It seems that this year has seen a flood of apps and games from NASA all revolving around stuff they don't seem ready to do anymore (according to directives from on high). Wayne Eleazer looks at the scrapping of perfectly good launch vehicles. Jeff Foust looks at the change in the national space policy (I'm still confused, how about you?) and Bob Clarebrough looks at the debate over policy and NASA's direction.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Ia! Ia! Ansible!

July. Ansible. Ia!

Sir Ian Blair, ex-Metropolitan Police commissioner, showed off his sf erudition regarding the number of UK police forces: 'It's 43, which is, by coincidence, the secret of the universe in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and about as rational.' (Radio 4 Today, 25 June) [JB]