Saturday, December 31, 2011

Comet and Station

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the flipside of an earlier posted image. In this, we see the ISS and Comet Lovejoy together. Next to this shot is the view from the ISS.
On Listening To Too Much Dan Carlin (06)

Movies: Historians also point to another event in Hollywood as a sign of the decline of Western civilization. This event did not take place all at once, but over many years. The hinge point seems to have been the late 1960's. Prior to this, movies were often events, where audiences dressed up and were treated to a musical Overture and/or Proogue, an intermission (where one could stretch one's legs and get a refreshment in the lobby), accompanied by the "Entr'acte" music, more sweeping drama, and a musical finale (which was more than just "end credit" music, but could include an Epilogue and the "Playoff" music). Movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lawrence of Arabia or Ben Hur were more than just movies, they were events.

With the decline of the event, came the rise of the spectacle where special effects (computer generated or explosions, people and vehicles that defied physics) substituted for quality and substance, much the same as cardboard was swapped for popcorn and salty oil-based "stuff" was substituted for real butter. The West never recovered.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hungry Eyes

What lies at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy? Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an artist depiction of some of what be going on there.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Moon and Evening Star

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice shot of the New Moon and Venus in the early evening sky.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Lovejoy in the skies over Chile. Looks pretty good for a comet that nearly plunged into our home star!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Exordium

Several years ago a friend urged me to read a multi-part space opera. I started it and was hooked from the first chapter. Epic battles that would rival "Doc" Smith, dense politics, strange backgrounds and cultures that would make Jack Vance proud and enough verbiage (five volumes) to keep you busy for weeks.

The downside was that it appeared that the series did not get the support it deserved and the attention it deserved so it faded from view.

Well, not entirely. There was a active (vocal) group at Yahoo to discuss the book. And as time marched on and the barriers to entry fell, the two authors of the book were able to bring it back into print in electronic and paper format.

So...I urge you to go out and experience The Phoenix in Flight and Ruler of Naught, the first two volumes of the amazing Exordium series (the other three will come). Now with revised/restored sequences!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a jaw-dropping shot of the Dumbbell Nebula. Wowza.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Saturnian Storm

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot from the Cassini orbiter of the largest storm in the solar system.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Moon and Mountains

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another shot of the eclipsed Moon. Looks...very...cold!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Shell Game

A "deep image" of NGC 7600 reveals hidden structures (shells) in today's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Better than the pizza delivery sequence in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash: How does David Weber order a pizza?
Ring of Fire

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an "Einstein Ring", light from a distant object bent around another object and bringing it (after a fashion) to our attention.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows one of the Geminids falling through a late Fall sky last week.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Does the Higgs-Boson exist? Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the machine that is trying to get to the heart of the question.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'm A Survior!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Lovejoy's brush with fame (and our Sun). Predicted to be destroyed by its close encounter, it looks like Lovejoy is still around!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Key Equipment

Very retro. Very nifty.

Five killer technologies. I don't think the book will go away...completely...but the days of the paperback are numbered.
There's a Bathroom on the Right

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another view of last week's lunar eclipse. The title of today's post has nothing to do with that and everything to do with mis-heard song lyrics.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reality Check in Aisle One

Fun with things like correlation. IT'S SCIENCE, BEYITCHIES.
Phased Moon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows another time-lapse sequence of last week's lunar eclipse. Full Moon to Pumpkin Moon to Full Moon!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Moon Over India

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice time-lapse sequence of last week's lunar eclipse.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cargo Cult

And another many cargo vehicles do we have for one station that I keep hearing we'll sink circa 2020 (silly decision, if true)?
That Girl

A review of the remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Sounds better, but I still question the need for a remake vs. a better distribution of the original.

A website for Gustav Hasford and The Short-Timers. Oddly enough, for such a well-regarded book...not in print? No electronic edition? Sigh, to the second-hand market, I go!
Where Next, Columbus?

I think Paul Allen and Burt Rutan just answered their own personal version of that question.

More here.
Yes, Children...

Once upon a time, we were able to walk on another sphere. No more, because they took away your dreams and mine.
The Cream on the Cone

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an area near the Cone Nebula. Strawberry? Blueberry? Cherry?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cold Hunting

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows pictures of a very cold hunt: looking for meteors at our southern pole!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rock and Roll

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows sections of a meteorite that appears to be parts of asteroid Vesta (which we are presently orbiting via the Dawn space probe).

Friday, December 09, 2011

Nettle Stew

Amazing find in a quarry in Ye Olde Englande.

Is the poem Lycidas by John Milton the source of titles for several important works of science fiction?
Blue Origins

NASA Deputy Administrator tours Blue Origin. I cannot recall a Deputy Administrator or NASA chief that pushed themselves into photos as much as these two have!
Micro World

How to make a terrarium as a Christmas tree ornament. And why not use such year round to brighten up your house?
Setting Eclipse

Total eclipse of the Moon for tomorrow. Alas, by the time it happens, it'll be set for me. Take a look if you can! The Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a recent similar eclipse.
The Great Dismal

Catching up with William Gibson courtesy of Tor's website. Coming in January...the first non-fiction collection (pre-ordered twice).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Earth "Like"

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a comparison between the rocky planets of our solar system and the recently-discovered rocky planet in the Kepler 22 system. Looks like something that Hal Clement would come up with!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Dyson's Sphere

A profile of George Dyson (his previous books on the evolution of computing and the Orion atomic-bomb powered spaceship are excellent) which mentions that a new book will be coming March next. Huzzah!
The Very Best

I first encountered Charles De Lint several years ago when I started spotting his books on the shelves of the local bookstore. The covers looked interesting, but I shied away as I have always been less interested in fantasy than science fiction and even less interested in serial fantasy (due to the "where to start" problem).

I then came across an interview with him in an episode of Rick Kleffel's The Agony Column (see here, page down to the September 4, 2003). Interesting stuff, I thought.

So when I came across two books that did not appear to be part of any particular series, I gave them a try. And was hooked.

I picked up several more volumes, mostly short story collections or novels about Del Lint's fictional setting of Newford. The first of those that I've started to read is this "best of" collection, or rather a "very best of" collection.

"Who is he?" she asked. "Or maybe should I be asking what is he?"

"I've always thought of him as a kind of anima,"Jilly said. "A loose bit of myth that got left behind when all the others went on to wherever it is that myths go when we don't believe in them anymore."

"That's sort of what he said. But what does it mean? What is he really?"

Jilly shrugged. "Maybe what he is isn't so important as that he is." At Wendy's puzzled look, she added, "I can't explain it any etter. I...look, it's like it's not so important that he is or isn't what he says he is, but that he says it. That he believes it."


"Because it's just like he told you," Jilly said. "People are losing touch with themselves and with each other. They need stories because they really are the only thing that brings us together. Gossip, anecdotes, jokes, stories—these are the things that we used to exchange with each other. It kept the lines of communication open, let us touch each other on a regular basis.

"That's what art's all about, too. My paintings and your poems, the books Christy writes, the music Geordie plays—they're all lines of communication. But they're harder to keep open now because it's so much easier for most people to relate to a TV set than it is to another person. They get all this data fed into them, but they don't know what to do with it anymore. When they talk to other people, it's all surface. How ya doing, what about the weather. The only opinions they have are those that they've gotten from people on TV shows. They think they're informed, but all they're doing is repeating the views of talk show hosts and news commentators.

"They don't know how to listen to real people anymore."

(Charles De Lint, The Conjure Man, The Very Best of Charles De Lint)

That quote there, coming in the middle of one of the many fine tales in this collection, seems to best sum up the theme behind many of the stories in this collection. De Lint writes "fantasy" and we have magical creatures popping up but in reality the stories are about relationships, people, caring and the like.

A very nice mix between the Newford tales and a few other linked sets, plus a number of independent stories.

Regarding the opening sentence of my review, well, I read a lot more fantasy than I used to. I rate Tim Powers among my all time favorites. Peter S. Beagle and Gene Wolfe are up there as well. Tha new guy, Neil Gaiman, can turn an occasional good phrase. De Lint is among the ranks of such of these.

The Very Best of Charles De Lint; Charles De Lint; edited by Jill Roberts (Tachyon Publications; 2010; ISBN 978-1-892391-96-4; cover by Charles Vess).

Made up of: Introduction; In Which We Meet Jilly Coppercorn; Coyote Stories; Laughter in the Leaves; The Badger in the Bag; And the Rafters Were Ringing; Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood; The Stone Drum; Timeskip; Freewheeling; A Wish Named Arnold; Into the Green; The Graceless Child; Winter Was Hard; Conjure Man; We Are Dead Together; Mr. Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery; In the House of My Enemy; The Moon Is Drowning While I Sleep; Crow Girls; Birds; Held Safe By Moonlight and Vines; In the Pines; Pixel Pixies; Many Worlds Are Born Tonight; Sisters; Pal O'Mine; That was Radio Clash; Old Man Crow; The Fields Beyond the Fields.

Counts as 30 entries in the 2011 Year in Shorts.
Fly the Friendly Skies

Space, societies, aliens and...diversity? An amusing look at the silly conceptions of gaia-centric academics.
Albert Hall

I'm fixing a hole where the universe gets in and keeps my mind from wandering...
My Karma Ran Over Your Dogma

On the coming robotic apocalypse.
Ad Astra

James Gunn (one of our best practioners of science fiction research) has a new website/research tool available. Take a look!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a movie showing Jupiter's rotation.

One of the most memorable observing experiences I had was one cold January night where Jupiter showed particilarly clear. Not only could I see the Great Red Spot, but the major moons and their shadows. As I observed, more and more detail kept "popping" into view on the cloud banks: whorls and festoons. Suddenly I realized that the Great Red Spot had transited across the face of Jupiter and I had very cold feet. I had sat there for several hours that night, utterly captivated by what I had seen.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an odd echo, a light echo. V838 Mon, 20,000 light years away is one odd duck.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Friday, December 02, 2011


It's up! #293 in a series! Ltos of good stuff, as usual.

Gems such as...

Editorial. My New Year resolution will be to write an editorial.
In Southern Climes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the recent (partial) solar eclipse from Antartica.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Full View

Around the flight deck of Discovery.
Writing is a Dangerous Undertaking

It is not enough merely to love literature, if one wishes to spend one’s life as a writer. It is a dangerous undertaking on the most primitive level. For, it seems to me, the act of writing with serious intent involves enormous personal risk. It entails the ongoing courage for self-discovery. It means one will walk forever on the tightrope, with each new step presenting the possibility of learning a truth about oneself that is too terrible to bear.

(Harlan Ellison)
Old Bottles, New Wine

After several years, I'm trying a new look for the old blog. Alas, I can't find "widgets" or gadgets" for some things that I've had for years (like the position of the International Space Station), but hopefully that will change. Comments on the look welcome.

Stellar engineering and stellar engines. Dream big.
New and Evenstar

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of a sight you may have seen earlier this week: the "new" Moon near the evenstar, Venus.