Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Very Big Boom

I want one of these for when I become head of an Evil Empire. You, my minions, should start digging.
Train Set

Holy smokes, take a look at this "model railroad"!!!

Hey, look: the British Army has a blog! The whole thing!
The Spoken Word

Fun with Latin and Greek.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Atlas V launch vehicle tossing Curiosity on its way to Mars. So expensive that a second rover was not built, and using a new (untried) landing system, there's a lot riding on that launcher.

Another fifteen picoseconds of fame.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The Voyninch Manuscript is now available online!
Outback Books

Now here's an interesting looking bookstore!
What Lies Beyond?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the central region of galaxy Centaurus A, a cosmic maelstrom. What wonders lie beyond the obscuring clouds?
The State of the Economy

1. I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

2. I ordered a burger at McDonalds and the kid behind the counter asked, "Can you afford fries with that?"

3. CEO's are now playing miniature golf.

4. If the bank returns your check marked "Insufficient Funds," you call them and ask if they meant you or them.

5. Hot Wheels and Matchbox stocks are trading higher than GM.

6. McDonalds is selling the 1/4 ouncer.

7. Parents in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and learned their children's names.

8. A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico .

9. Dick Cheney took his stockbroker hunting.

10. Motel Six won't leave the light on anymore.

11. The Mafia is laying off judges.

12. Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

(With a tip of the hat to Arnold Bailey, who posted this at Baen's Bar...)
Conservatives vs. Liberals

(Seen at Baen's Bar...remember it is humor...)

If a conservative doesn't like guns, he doesn’t buy one.
If a liberal doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat.
If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

If a conservative sees a foreign threat, he thinks about how to defeat his enemy.
A liberal wonders how to surrender gracefully and still look good.

If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly leads his life.
If a liberal is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.

If a black man or Hispanic are conservative, they see themselves as independently successful.
Their liberal counterparts see themselves as victims in need of government protection.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation.
A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals demand that those they don't like be shut down.

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church.
A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it’s a foreign religion, of course!)

If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.
A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

If a conservative slips and falls in a store, he gets up, laughs and is embarrassed.
If a liberal slips and falls, he grabs his neck, moans like he's in labor and then sues.

If a conservative reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh.
A liberal will delete it because he's "offended".

(Again...humor. As an excercise for the student, come up with a reverse version.)
The Horror...The Horror...

"Have you ever awakened the morning after a book-buying spree, unable to remember how many you bought or how much you spent? Have you ever been reprimanded or fired for reading on the job? Have you ever purchased or rented additional living space—just for your books? Then you, like me, are a biblioholic!" (Tom Raabe, "Biblioholism")
To the Pain!

Prince Humperdinck: First things first, to the death.

Westley: No. To the pain.

Prince Humperdinck: I don't think I'm quite familiar with that phrase.

Westley: I'll explain and I'll use small words so that you'll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon.

Prince Humperdinck: That may be the first time in my life a man has dared insult me.

Westley: It won't be the last. To the pain means the first thing you will lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists. Next your nose.

Prince Humperdinck: And then my tongue I suppose, I killed you too quickly the last time. A mistake I don't mean to duplicate tonight.

Westley: I wasn't finished. The next thing you will lose will be your left eye followed by your right.

Prince Humperdinck: And then my ears, I understand let's get on with it.

Westley: WRONG. Your ears you keep and I'll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, "Dear God! What is that thing," will echo in your perfect ears. That is what to the pain means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Landslide Brings You Down

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a result from one of our newest robotic explorers: Dawn spots a landslide on Vesta (!).
Making a List, Checking it Twice

What's on Leonardo Da Vinci's to-do list? Interesting stuff!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sky Bird

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of IC 5067, more popularly known as the Pelican Nebula. More pillars of creation!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Inside the Dome

What goes on inside those mysterious mountaintop structures? Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day provides a glimpse.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

In the Afterglow

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an artist depiction of two galaxies in the process of formation, caught in the "afterglow" of a cosmic explosion.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eyes at Night

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the multi-dish radio telescopes of Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array under the skies of the Chilean Andes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the fall of a recent visitor from the Leonid swarm. Vermin of the skies...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Electronic Sea

Patrick O'Brian's novels are going digital. There was much rejoicing in The Gunroom.
What Is Truth?

In ancient Greece (469-399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.

One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students...?"

"Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before you tell me, I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Test of Three."

"Test of Three?"

"That's correct. Before you talk to me about my student let's take a moment to test what you're going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man replied, "actually I just heard about it."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?"

"No, on the contrary..."

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him even though you're not certain it's true?"

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued, "You may still pass though because there is a third test—the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really..."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?"

The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more.

This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

It also explains why Socrates never found out that Plato was banging his wife.
Divine Intervention

A United States Marine was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan . One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist and a member of the ACLU.

One day the professor shocked the class when he came in. He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, "GOD if you are real then I want you to knock me off this platform. I'll give you exactly 15 min." The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop.

Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, "Here I am GOD, I'm still waiting."

It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold.

The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently.

The other students were shocked and stunned, and sat there looking on in silence.

The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, "What in the world is the matter with you? Why did you do that?"

The Marine calmly replied, "GOD was too busy today protecting American soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an idiot. So He sent me."

"You cannot fully read a book without being alone. But through this very solitude you become intimately involved with people whom you might never have met otherwise, either because they have been dead for centuries or because they spoke languages you cannot understand. And nonetheless, they have become your closest friends, your wisest advisors, the wizards that hypnotize you, the lovers you have always dreamed of." (Antonio Munoz Molinas, "The Power of the Pen")

"A reader doesn't really see the characters in a story; he feels them." (Cornelia Funke, Inkdeath)

I went into a flop house to get some sacra clear,
The barman points me to the door, “We don’t serve guardsman here.”
The girls sat at the bar, they laughed and sniggered ‘til they burst,
I walked into the street again and damned them with a curse,
O it's Guardsman this, and Guardsman that, and "Guardsman, go away";
But it's Our Brave Imperial Soldiers, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's Our Brave Imperial Soldiers when the band begins to play.

I went into a temple as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but the priest had none for me;
They sent me to the courtyard because without so much a grunt,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! Then I’ll be in front!
For it's Guardsman this, and Guardsman that, and Guardsman, wait outside";
But it's first aboard the shuttle when the starships on the tide,
The starship's on the tide, my boys, the starship's on the tide,
O it's first aboard the shuttle when the starships's on the tide.

Yes, making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, and Emperor knows they’re cheap;
And hustling drunken soldiers when they've had a little bit
Is five times better business than parading in full kit.
Then it's Guardsman this, and Guardsman that, and Guardsman, how's your soul?"
But it's Our Brave Imperial Soldiers when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's Our Brave Imperial Soldiers when the drums begin to roll.

We’re not Our Brave Imperial Soldiers and we aren't no heretics too,
But single men in barracks, in other ways like you;
And if sometimes our conduct don’t show enough restraint,
Why, a single man in barracks don't make a very good saint;
While it's Guardsman this, an' Guardsman that, an' "Guardsman, fall behind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk of better food for us, and prayer schools, and homes and all:
We'll wait for extra rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about with cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Emperor’s Uniform is not the Guardsman's disgrace.
For it's Guardsman this, and Guardsman that, and "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of the Imperium when the guns begin to shoot;
And it's Guardsman this, and Guardsman that, and anything you please;
And Guardsman ain't an utter fool -- you bet that Guardsman sees!

(John Lambshead, after Rudyard Kipling)
Stop Motion

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a video that has been passed around a few times now. However, it never ceases to amaze: Around the world on the ISS. Thunderstorms, aurora, city lights, oceans, forests...

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a star-forming region (known as W5) as captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope. "Pillars of creation" abound!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a mysterious-looking nebula popularly known as Wolf's Cave.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Imperial Madness

"'They shall be my finest warriors, these men who give themselves to me.

Like clay I shall mould them and in the furnace of war I shall forge them.

They will be of iron will and steely muscle.

In great armour shall I clad them and with the mightiest gun shall they be armed.

They will be untouched by plague or disease, no sickness will blight them.

They will have tactics, strategies and machines such that no foe will best them in battle.

They are my bulwark against the terror.

They are the defenders of Humanity.

They are my Space Marines...

...and they shall know no fear.'

-The Emperor of Man

'Another day nearer the battle

So drink up, lads and look brave.

For another day nearer the battle

Is another day nearer the grave.'

Imperial Guard drinking song

'Some may question your right to destroy ten billion people. But those who understand realise that you have no right to let them live.'

-In Exterminatus Extremis

'Do not ask which creature screams in the night.

Do not ask who crouches in the shadow.

For it is my voice that wakes you in the night

And me who watches you from the shadow.

I am Tzeentch and you are the puppet

That dances to my tune.

Karazantor the Vile, Traitor of Xian

'Orkses is never beaten in battle. If we win we win, if we die so it don't count as beat. If we runs for it we don't die neither, so we can always come back for anuvver go, see!'


'They have only one purpose and there is nothing they will not do to accomplish this, no matter how vile or loathsome it might be. These abominations mean to destroy everything proud and noble, everything we hold dear and have fought so long to achieve.'

-Inqisitor Agmar on Tyranids

'A Heretic may see the truth and seek redemption. He may be forgiven his past and will be absolved in death. A Traitor can never be forgiven. A Traitor will never find peace in this world or the next. There is nothing as wretched or as hated in all the world as a Traitor.'

-Cardinal Khrysdam, Instructum Absolutio

'Listen but closely Brothers, for my life's breath is all but spent. There shall come a time far from now when our Chapter itself is dying, even as I am now dying, and our foes shall gather to destroy us. Then my children, I shall listen for your call in whatever realm of death holds me, and come I shall, no matter what the laws of life and death forbid. At the end I will be there. For the final battle. For the Wolftime.

-Last words of Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves

'Through the gates that stand between the mortal world and the immortal Realm of Chaos are now closed to me, still I would rather die having glimpsed eternity than to have stirred the cold furrow of mortal life.

I embrace death without regret as I embraced life without fear.'

-Kargos Bloodspitter, Champion of Khorne

'We're the Death Korp of Krieg, son. Did you think that was just a pretty name? We never retreat. We fight and we die, that's the Krieg way.'

-Lieutenant Konarski at the Battle of Erebus, Tarsis Ultra

"Curses! Just when you've finally managed to bring the whole world under your evil influence some pathetic little Inquisitor goes whining off to the Adeptus Terra about rogue psykers and daemonic possession. I mean, do I look posssessed? Well, do I? DO I???" - Personal Log of Lord Varlak, 995.M41 (during the Purging of Korsk II)

"There is no such thing as a plea of innocence in my court. A plea of innocence is guilty of wasting my time. Guilty." - Inquisitor Lord Fyodor Karamazov"
Military Wit and Wisdom of the Imperium

A good general does not lead an army to destruction just because he knows it will follow.
A good soldier obeys without question. A good officer commands without doubt.
A mind without purpose will wander in dark places.
A small mind is a tidy mind.
A small mind is easily filled with faith.
All untruths are sedition.
An empty mind is a loyal mind.
Be strong in your ignorance.
Better crippled in body than corrupt in mind.
Blessed is the mind too small for doubt.
Carry the Emperor’s Will as your torch, with it destroy the shadows.
Cease and Repent.
Crush the unholy in all of their many guises.
Damnation is Eternal.
Death is the servant of the righteous.
Destroy the impure.
Doubt is the open gate through which slips the most fatal of enemies.
Even a heretic may repent and in his death be saved. A traitor is forever damned.
Every man is expected to work his fingers to the bone to accomplish the task in hand. And if that proves insufficient, he shall work them to the marrow!
Examine your thoughts.
Excuses are the refuge of the weak.
Exitus Acta Probat: The outcome justifies the deed.
Extreme remedies are most appropriate for extreme diseases.
Faith in the Emperor is its own reward.
Faith is the sturdiest armour. Hatred the surest weapon.
Faith without deeds is worthless.
Fear me, for I am your apocalypse.
Fear not the creatures of the jungle but those that lurk within your mind.
Follow me if I advance. Kill me is I retreat. Avenge me if I die.
Form follows content.
Guns and warriors are useful but it is our indomitable will that promises the ultimate victory.
Hatred is eternal.
He who lives for nothing is nothing. He who dies for the Emperor is a hero.
He who loses a limb lives on. He who loses his head does not.
He who seizes the moment, he is the right man.
Honour, duty & obedience.
Hope is the beginning of unhappiness.
If a job’s worth doing it’s worth dying for!
If you want peace, prepare for war.
Ignorance is a virtue.
Ignorance is no excuse.
In failure are the seeds of Heresy sown.
Information is power.
Innocence proves nothing.
Know thine enemy.
Know your destination before you set out.
Knowledge is power, guard it well.
Let faith light the darkness of your soul.
No battle was every won that was poorly planned. No plan ever succeeded that was poorly conceived.
No man that died in the Emperor’s service died in vain.
Nobody is innocent, there are merely varying degrees of guilt.
Not even the dead know the end of war.
Nothing can hide from the wrath of the Emperor.
One man can start a landslide with the casting of a single pebble.
Only the lost understand true terror.
Peace is hell.
Peace? There cannot be peace in these times.
Perseverance and silence are the highest virtues.
Prayer cleanses the soul, but pain cleanses the body.
Purge the unclean.
Purity is not your best defence; it is your only defence.
Retribution stalks the heretic from afar.
Seek reward in service alone.
Serve the Emperor today, for tomorrow you may be dead.
Sorrow awaits the foolhardy.
Strength through unity.
Strive Harder.
Study the Alien, the better to kill it.
Success is commemorated. Failure is merely remembered.
Suffer not the Alien.
That which is unknown and unseen always commands the greatest fear.
The Cosmos cry out for salvation.
The dead watch over us and guide us.
The difference between heresy and treachery is ignorance.
The Emperor knows, the Emperor is watching.
The end justifies the means.
The enemy of man lies in his own blood.
The only true achievement is purity.
The population needs deception, so deceive them.
The road to purity is drenched in the blood of the martyred.
The wage of negligence is utter destruction.
The wise man learns from the deaths of others.
There is no art more beautiful and diverse than the art of Death.
There is no salvation without suffering.
There is only the Emperor and he is our shield and protector.
Though the artificers of Evil are many, a bolter round kills just as assuredly.
Thought begets heresy: Heresy begets retribution.
To live in peace is to know death, to die in battle is to know peace.
Tolerance is a sign of weakness.
Trust no one else and trust yourself less.
Trust to your faith.
War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.
Wisdom is the beginning of fear.
Zeal is no excuse.

And those are just the good guys...seriously.
Leather and Lace

The point that must be made is that although Herrena the Henna-Haired Harridan would look quite stunning after a good bath, a heavy-duty manicure, and the pick of the leather racks in Woo Hung Ling's Oriental Exotica and Martial Aids on Heroes Street, she was currently quite sensibly dressed in light chain mail, soft boots, and a short sword. All right, maybe the boots were leather. But not black.

(Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic)

A very good article on one company that is causing a paradigm shift among the steely-eyed rocket engineers.
Light that Candle

A look back at America's first manned sub-orbital flight, by the people who made the mission possible.
On Orbit

One of the more astonishing things sent down from the ISS. City lights, aurora, lightning storms and more!
Uneven Moon

Lunar topography like you've never seen it before.
All Schlock, All the Time

At the latest episode of the SF Signal Podcast, we interview Howard Tayler.
A Difficult Subject

A comma walked into a bar...

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is one of my favorite winter sights.

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid.

(Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Locksley Hall)

Addendum: We've been down this road before.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


New Horizons has long ago passed the Jupiter system on its way to "dwarf planet" Pluto, but images still get processed and released. Take a look at this stunning montage of Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows our gnarly star.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Falling, Falling

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of a waterfall, water shining and auroras flowing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows special effects that rival anything ever seen on the Big Screen.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Semi-Intelligent Mobile Device

Gee, I wish my Android phone was this good!

It appears now that the story about Harlan Ellison getting a screen credit (and a settlement) in his recent suit was not so true. Stranger and stranger.
Return to Orbit

So after killing off Stargate Universe, SyyyyyFyyyy has announced that they are bringing in some new shows, including one set in space.

Sounds so-so from various descriptions, especially given the track record of the folks behind it (Andromeda, seriously?).

Here's a thought. I know of a property developed by David Gerrold that would make a quality show. Why not develop that instead?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of supernova remnant RCW 86. Galactic strands.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I Love Coffee, I Love Tea

William S. Burroughs and the death of espresso in Old London.
Philip K. Dick Is Still Dead, Alas

More on the recent brick by Philip K. Dick. Brick information here. The head is missing. The head has been rebuilt. And Ridley Scott is visiting. Jonathan Lethem (who edited the brick) on the brick. NPR/PRI's Takeaway on Jonathan Lethem, PKD and the brick.

And from the archives: Golden years. What PKD learned from UKLG. LOA on PKD (01). LOA on PKD (02). LOA on PKD (03). (FYI, PKD is PDF in those three.)

Quotes from the brick. Far out.

Bah, the sheep go.

The gumdrop falls into the pool for the third water landing test. Still waiting on that whole funding and destination plan thing.
That's No Moon...

No, it's a passing ship in the night. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a radar image of Asteroid 2005 YU55, which recently had a "close" passage by our planet.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Book Bargains

Here's a couple of bundle recommendations for those who read eBooks. Multiple formats, reasonable prices, and NO STINKING DRM. Via Baen's Webscriptions services comes several bundles of books from Nightshade Books: Glen Cook 01. Glen Cook 02. William Hope Hodgson. Clark Ashton Smith.

And a whole lot more from many authors. Can be used (depending on the format) on just about any eReader out there.
Bah! Bah!

Jonathan Lethem dreams of electric sheep. He also helped to edit a doorstopper of a tome. Yes, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick is out.

A film sequel to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner? Other than being helmed by Mr. Scott himself, is there any chance of it being even vaguely as interesting (or controversial) as the first).

Probably not. Oh, Hollow-wood, why have you no imagination?

Yes, child, once upon a time we went to another world. No more, alas.

What I'd really like right now is a damn fine cup of coffee. Failing that, cherry pie and dancing dwarves.
More Dragons

New books about Girls. Well, old books, new wrappings. Still no word on an actual new book coming out.
Awesome with Awesome Sauce

A Kickstarter campaign for a boardgame based on the Schlock Mercenary webcomic!

Today's Astronomy Picture of Day shows jumping sundogs over thunderclouds.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Still Gone

Marking the date of my father's birth and nearly two years beyond his passing.

My son, be steadfast in honoring your father,
do not grieve him as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him;
do not revile him because you are in your prime.
Kindness to a father will not be forgotten;
it will serve as a sin offering—it will take lasting root.
In time of trouble it will be recalled to your advantage,
like warmth upon frost it will melt away your sin.
Those who neglect their father are like blasphemers;
those who provoke their mother are accursed by their


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is not an orange, not red hot lava, but a short video of our oozing Sun. Weird stuff.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Friday, November 04, 2011

Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 3628, popularily known as The Hamburger Galaxy. Looks like it is at least topped with cheese.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of NGC 7380, The Wizard Nebula. Looks more like a spray of fall colors to me.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

It. Has. Arrived.

Ansible 292. Read it. Absorb it. Worship it.
Little Buttons

As part of my migration away from sites I'm finding less useful (FB, LI) and back to here as the primary site for items, I've added two Twitter-related buttons (see on top). Twitter is where I post brief stuff.
Busman's Holiday

I'd be perfectly happy spending an entire vacation doing nothing but reading. Other plans are usually made.

Today's Astronomy (Video Clip) of the Day is a physics lesson.