Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Double Image

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an airplane passing in front of the Moon. Happens a lot, when I observe. Dang startling at times!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Dancing Barefoot

From Dancing Saturn to Dancing Venus...Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the south polar vortex at Venus.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dancing Barefoot

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the compilation of hundreds of pictures from Cassini. They were combined to help scientists understand the dynamics of Saturn's atmosphere.
A Hacker's Tour

A video tour (spread over multiple parts) of electronics shops in one part of Japan.
The Shadow in the East

Is The Hobbit film a political football?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cosmic Tadpole

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Arp 188, a disrupted galaxy that is known as the Tadpole.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back to the Moon

Well, if we're not going to do it for real, at least I can read about it. I have been waiting for this one for about two years now!
Memories of Jack

Frederik Pohl continues his occasional recollections of Jack Williamson on his blog (which I hope will eventually be incorporated into an updated autobiography). This one is a very moving entry.
Shine On

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day continues the march of the seasons and flips us from the Iron Sun to the Harvest Moon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the shadow of space shuttle Discovery projected as the shuttle is brought to the launchpad for its last (currently scheduled) flight.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Throttling Sales

So William Gibson has a new book out, Zero History (official site here), the third in the sequence that also has Pattern Recognition and Spook Country in it. I picked up the hardcover the other day and started reading it last night.

Alas, it does not appear that I'll be buying the eBook, as I have with any other book by Gibson that I've been able to buy over the past few years. Fictionwise does not have any Gibson title listed (despite the fact that this is where I bought them in the past), the result, I guess, of their urinating contests with various publishers over prices. How about Mobipocket? Nope, nothing there. Mobipocket is owned by Amazon, I guess Amazon is trying to channel people towards the Kindle. Barnes and Nobles? They have it, but in a format that is DRM-locked and unable to be read on anything other than a desktop, some mobile devices, and their gadget. Perhaps that is why Fictionwise does not have it, seeing that B&N bought Fictionwise and ever since then choices have been getting smaller and smaller. Hey, what about Amazon? They have it, but for the Kindle. Same program that my eBook gadget uses, Mobipocket, but Amazon bought Mobipocket and imposed restrictions on files that previously did not exist. It is a different "flavor" of Mobipocket and won't work on my gadget.

So I won't be buying the book in electronic format, which means, ultimately, lost sales to the publisher and the author. When I first started reading electronic books on my Newton and my Palm Pilot I could read eBooks in multiple formats (using programs that are now owned by Barnes & Noble and Amazon) without conflict. More than one DRM file format could live on the gadget. But since publishers have gotten more interested in the market and the big distributors bought up the smaller players, things have gotten more and more restrictive. Choices have shrunk. Books vanish from my virtual "bookshelf" or are yanked from the stores all together. Prices rise thanks to the "agency model", no discounts or price competition allowed.

So...Congress...FTC...and others: how did all that DRM legislation help me and expand trade? How did all these mergers and acquisitions help me and expand trade? Publishers, instead of looking out for yourselves and trying to control an increasingly shrinking market (a lot of things are calling for our attention), why do you act to squash every innovation?

Sorry, Mr. Gibson. I guess only one copy of the book for me.

Joe Haldeman, a man who writes about future-than-light travel, colonizing Mars and more writes with a fountain pen by the light of an oil lamp.
Another Starry, Starry Night

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a painting of the night sky by Vincent van Gogh. No, not the one you are thinking of!

Discovery is "mated" to its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters in preparation for its final scheduled flight. Always a thrill, but so sad that we can't get our act together and build a replacement vehicle.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cosmic Wall Hangings

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows aurora over Norway. An amazing variety of shapes seen across the sky.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Through a Nebulae, Darkly

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows dark clouds in the Carina Nebula. Clouds and knots and beauty, oh my!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

10 Billion Trillion Carats

Shine on, you crazy diamond. Didn't Poul Anderson and others use this. And Clarke had a big honking diamond in 2061: Odyssey Three.
Endless Rooms

Steven Pressfield on writing, exploring rooms and learning to spell. Gates of Fire rocks.
Dunsany, Eich-Pee-El and Klarkashton, Oh My!

Sounds like this guy drinks from the same literary well as some of my favorite writers.

Celestial fantasies of deathless night,
Enraptured colonnades adorned with pearls,
Resplendent guardians of crimson light,
Expanse of darkness silently unfurls
Among colossal ruins on this shore,
That once was purled by Xantoos' rolling seas;
Nothing remains upon this barren core
Of Mars, but your palatial memories.
Wide View

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wide view of the fall sky and a bright visitor: Jupiter, the closest (and brightest) it'll be for a number of years.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Curtains in the Sky

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows ghostly sky curtains across Prelude Lake (Canada). On occasion we're lucky enough to see them here or even lower across the northern hemisphere.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Veil in Cygnus

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Veil Nebula in Cygnus. I've only been fortunate to see this a couple of times with my own telescope.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moon Shot

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful daylight shot of the Moon, clouds, birds and Venus.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Could be an Arp

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows IRAS 23166+1655. It almost looks like something out of Halton Arp's catalog, but it is actually a planetary nebula, possibly disrupted by a nearby star.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dust in the System

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows zodiacal light over Namibia. I've seen this once or twice, a strange sight.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

More Things in Heaven

Today's Astronomy Picture of the day shows a rarity: a natural nuclear reactor. I recall running across this in one of Stephen Baxter's Manifold books and never knew it was real!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Star Streams and Sunflower

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier 63 in Canes Venatici (a somewhat vague constellation, especially in today's light-polluted skies). A nifty sight, even in smaller instruments if you have "good seeing".

Friday, September 10, 2010


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the glowing remnants of a supernova in Vela. Too faint (as far as I know) for most amateur-class equipment, amazing detail can be found in this image.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Trunk to Bubble

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows clusters, nebulae and dust clouds in the Cepheus region. Fall is a great time to explore this region!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Thursday, September 02, 2010


It is back! What more do you need to know?

As Others See Us. The Guardian attacks the very great evil of tie-dye clothing: 'It's Terry Pratchett books and Games Workshop. It's the implication that elsewhere in your wardrobe there may lurk a T-shirt that says "SMEG HEAD" and that, on occasion, when someone asks what you're having in the pub, you smirkingly ask for a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. / Under the circumstances, perhaps dip-dye is the answer. It's tie-dye's cooler brother and arrives free of the inference of chakra-realignment or Red Dwarf fandom.' (Alex Petridis, 10 July) [PW]
"The 24th Shitkickers Were Never The Same After The Peloponnese"

Episode 5 of Ancient Rome Refocused is up. Highly recommended for anybody who has served or who went through a situation like 9/11.

And listen to the earlier episodes as well!
Technology Creep

How technology has made movies obsolete.
Dancing on the Ceiling

I've encountered this in science fiction (see Von Neuman's War by "Doc" Taylor and John Ringo). Climbing robots!
Tripping Out

I've had more than a few of these books.

High pulp, low pulp, acid-free, ultra-deluxe-limited-fanboi-edition, paperback, hardcover, first edition, reprint, papyrus, clay tablets, clunky computer screen, Apple Newton, Palm Pilot, second and third generation Palm, Handspring Visor, Sony Clie, Bookeen Cybook.

For me, it makes no real difference whether it is a "real book" or a eBook. It is the story inside my head that matters, not the method the story is stored on.

(Quick: how many of the listed delivery platforms do you think I've actually used?)
Fifth Best

NASA ranked "fifth best" place to work in the US government. No direction, no leadership, programs go nowhere or get canned. Sounds like utopia!
Just Can't Win

An author tries to give away books for free...and somebody makes money off of it anyway. And then tells the author to "pound salt" when the author complains!
Heart of the Sunrise

Expedition 24 greets the "morning" sunrise.
Breaking the Fourth Wall

A bit better list here. Science fiction author's who became characters in either their own books or in other books (and media).
Passing the Torch

Charles S. Roberts, a man who helped invent the gaming industry, has passed on.
The Pilgrim Project

No, not the classic book or the Robert Altman flick (still not widely available on DVD, drat it). Here's an interesting concept using the Orion system to explore a Near-Earth Asteroid. One problem: show me the money!
Tubeway Army

A "rail transit map" of modern science. Very cool.
Epic. Fail.

Crappy list of greatest fictional inventors. No Richard Seaton or Marc DuQuesne? Phah!
Urban Sprawl

What ever happened to arcologies?
Spy Bunker

An internet hosting company located in a former bomb shelter. Looks like the set for the next James Bond flick.
Drink, Drink, Drink

Heavy drinkers live longer? I'm sure there will be some contention over that headline.
Horizontal Test

Successful test of a five-segment solid rocket booster. Too bad we can't figure out where we are going in space or what we're doing there. Sigh.

A working (!) 1/10 scale "model" of a Cray supercomputer. Will wonders never cease?
That Coming Technological Singularity

Now you can take your virtual girlfriend to a beach resort.

Schemes to rid NEO of space junk. Send up the Toy Box!
That Unique Flavoring

Whiskey made from the urine of a diabetic. About as good as coffee made from beans that pass through the digestive system of a small mammal, I guess.
Short Hops

Some of NASA's money will be going towards private sub-orbital companies. The more launchers, the merrier...

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7635, the Bubble Nebula.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Fall In

Ansible 278, just in time for Fall.

Margaret Atwood was interviewed by Ira Flatow on NPR. IF: 'You know, in your books, science and technology don't necessarily make the world a better place. They don't necessarily mean that we're making progress.' MA: 'Science is a tool. I should say, science is two tools. One is a tool for investigating, just finding out and knowing. And the other is, we call it technology. It's a way of taking what we know and turning it into what, if it were an iPhone, you would call apps. [Laughter] Make apps. We make applications. And I think you've just enraged about five million science fiction fans by implying there is not any truth in science fiction, which of course isn't the case. A lot of science fiction writers have, in fact, anticipated things that we later did.' IF: 'Sure. I never meant to imply that.' MA: 'Oh, yeah. Take it back now. [Laughter ...] But what I what I call my books is speculative fiction, what you might call a subset of the genre ...' (, 20 August) [RF]
Lost Wax Castings

A company can press the ashes of your loved ones into vinyl. Vinyl is final.
Two Pale Dots

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows our planet and its moon from a different perspective.