Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows some strange watchers of the great white north.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows another view of the recently partial solar eclipse. This time, a view we do not often see!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day comes to us courtesy of the very long-lived SOHO spacecraft. Can you spot the planet?

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another beautiful Hubble Space Telescope shot showing the edge-on galaxy, NGC 891 in Andromeda.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Two Light

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of one of my favorite summertime vistas: Scorpius.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

And Not A Drop To Drink

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a comparison between the volume of water found on our home sphere and that of Jupiter's moon Europa. As information rolls in, it'll be interesting to see what other moons (and asteroids) yield in terms of that molecule.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short film showing the successful launch of the Dragon cargo variant to the ISS.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another Partial

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful sunset shot of this past weekend's partial solar eclipse.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Saturn's Rings, Dione, and two of Saturn's "shepherd moons", Epimetheus and Prometheus.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Setting Crescent

That's no Moon! That's the partially-eclipsed setting Sun! Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the setting Sun over Manila Bay from 2009.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Forecast for me is partly cloudy (of course!), but today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows you what you might see if you are lucky to be on tomorrow's eclipse path (and have clear skies!).

Friday, May 18, 2012

GALEX's Andromeda

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is interesting for multiple reasons. First, it is a beautiful picture of the Andromeda Galaxy. Second, it was taken by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, now "retired" by NASA and being "loaned" to private hands.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

X Marks the Spot

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of of a star-forming region of our galaxy...but in light that we cannot normally see.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Along Came A Spider

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows star-forming regions in the Tarantula Nebula (30 Doradus). "Embiggen" and dig around, see if you can spot any "pillars of creation"!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

High and Dry

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day answers the question, "So, how much water is there on Earth?" Hmmm...icy moon of Jupiter or dwarf planet, anybody?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tommy 2012

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
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 o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool--you bet that Tommy sees!
Bread & Wine

Samuel R. Delany; Bread & Wine (Juno Books; 1999; ISBN 1-890451-02-9; cover and artwork by Mia Wolff).

Another in the series of (the wallet cringes) recent acquisitions, this is one of two "graphic novels" I have written by Delany (the other being Empire). Unlike that effort, this is a autobiographical piece. After breaking up with his long-time partner, Frank (detailed at the end of 1984), Delany met Dennis, a homeless Brooklyn Irishman in, still his partner as of the last I heard. The graphic novel details how they met, got together and eventually moved in together.

I'm sure I've read an account of this in an interview or an essay, as much of the story was familiar. What's lacking, alas, are the reasons why the relationship has lasted (other than bitten fingernails). The artwork is good (and graphic; this is not a "funny book for the kids", folks); avoid the introductory essay by Alan Moore.
Winter of Love

Samuel R. Delany; Heavenly Breakfast: An Essay on the Winter of Love (Bamberger Books; 2006; ISBN 0-917-453-33-6; cover by George Schneeman).

This comparatively short work by Delany (another recent acquisition, the wallet cringes!) is spun out of an article he was writing about commune life, which was spun out of three journals that Delany kept while living with Heavenly Breakfast in 1967-1968. Heavenly Breakfast was both a commune and a band (which got close to, but never recorded, part of the reason why the band, and the commune, ultimately broke apart).

Delany outlines his several months with the commune, experiences with the members, encounters with other communes or groups, some successful, some not). Alas, there is not much depth or analysis here; for example, the group visits a monastery during the course of the book, but Delany does not seem to make the connection that a monastery is a sort of commune, and a commune that seems to have functioned far longer than anything that came out of the Summer of Love.

At some point I'll have to sit down and read all the autobiographical and semi-autobiographical works again, in chronological order. As with the others I have read (The Motion of Light in Water, Bread and Wine, 1984) half the fascination is in a well-examined life (a phrase that Delany used in 1984) and Delany's commentary as the writing and the events.
Spiral Bar

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is the magnificent spiral NGC 1672 in the constellation of Dorado. Dust lanes, young clusters, a bar across the nucleus and more.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Lot of Empty Space

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a lot of empty space. A lot of volume within those galaxies and between those galaxies.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I'd watch a flick written from a book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett with this cast. In a heartbeat. Half a heartbeat.

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the famous green flash. The only green flash I saw at sea was through the bottom of my beer bottle.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Look! Up the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! And it's a spaceship! Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day spills the beans.

Monday, May 07, 2012


Supermoon was under clouds for us. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Supermoon rising over Paris. The Moon is full every month and sometimes it seems bigger than Supermoon, to me. Media hype. Wait for it...soon Mars will be as big as the Moon (not).

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Nebula

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful view captured by the Hubble Space Telescope: the Omega Nebula and its rich star-forming regions.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Just Another Moon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows last night's full moon. Just another full moon, not the hyper-sized hysteria of the media. And while we're at it, Mars will not be as BIG AS THE MOON anytime this year.

Friday, May 04, 2012


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a two-year track of a gamma-ray source as the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope orbits around the Earth, adjusts to catch the Sun's rays for power and more. Like something out of the sixties, man!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

We're Gonna Party Like It's 1984

Samuel R. Delany; 1984: Selected Letters (Voyant Publishing; 2000; ISBN 0-9665998-1-0; cover by Sang Y. Lee and Greg Frux).

Made up of: Introduction by Kenneth R. James; letters from 1983 to 1985 and written to: Robert S. Bravard; Camilla Decarnin; Iva Hacker Delany; Ron Drummond; Victor Gonzales; Marilyn Holt and J.T. Stewart; Gerald Jonas; Tom LeClair; Mrs. Joseph P. Marshall; John P. Mueller; Michael W. Peplow; Joanna Russ; Tom Zummer; Michael W. Peplow; David N. Samuelson; Greg Tate; Bill Thompson; and containing the pieces Breaking the Realist Teacup; A John's Story; Locus Review; In The Once Upon A Time City.

My recent purchases (the wallet has cringed) of books by Samuel R. Delany continues with this collection of letters and essays, covering the period late in 1983, all of 1984, and into the start of 1985. Here we see Delany at the height of his writing (working on the Neveryon cycle), holding forth on music, art, poetry, criticism and crashing against personal matters and the deep pit of financial despair.

There's a lot here, ranging from discussions of books (the wallet cringes as I consider purchase), troubles with publishers, sexual encounters and more. No subject stands by itself in an individual letter, Delany jumps from thought to thought and keeps you entertained throughout. There are occasional style oddities. For example, most names are named in full. If it appears that Delany wants to hide the identity of a person, due to the sensitivity of the comments, he'll hide the name by doing something along the lines of naming a person as A----- B-----. However, this breaks down on occasion, for example when he names Lou Aronica, then at Bantam Spectra, and the problems with Neveryon, the industry, being paid, etc.

A interesting, fun and deep read of a strange and strained period. Recommended.

And occasionally surprising. Given the hoo-hah over Orson Scott Card, and given who Samuel R. Delany "is" (and if you aren't aware of the first and how it relates to the second, do some research!), this was a surprise.

Found your comments on A Woman of Destiny interesting. Orson Scott Card (called Scott by his friends) is an awfully interesting (and good!) man. I overlapped with him by a day or two at the last Clarion I taught. I saw A Woman of Destiny—a whole lot of copies of it—in a large dump at the front of Shakespeare & Co. some months back, and felt happy for him and for the distribution; read a page, and thought, well, maybe, someday, if I have time..."

Counts as fifty-eight (58) entries in the 2012 Year In Shorts.

The post-reading summing up: Delany meets with Umberto Eco, learns that Thomas Pynchon is a "big fan", discourses on language, science fiction, relationships and more. The non-letter installments varied a bit, particularly of interest was the In The Once Upon A Time City piece, which outlined how difficult it was to correct old typographical errors in Dhalgren while preventing new ones from creeping in. The highlight (emotional, informational) was the thirty-eighth letter (to a friend, Camilla DeCarnin) which included a rundown on those friends who stated they could no longer read his books after one certain point or the other because he, get this, changed as a writer.

Highly recommended if you have read other works by Delany; not a good place to start if you never have read Delany.

Far Helene

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Saturn's moon Helene (I bet you didn't even know that Saturn had a moon named Helene)as recently snapped by the Cassini orbiter (still going!). What an odd moon(let), what a mad universe.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

They Both Begin With "A"

As August does another Ansible!

Chris Foss remembered the joys of working on the film A.I.: '"Kubrick used to come in with a page of script and I'd visualise what he was doing. I told him that he'd got me started on my science fiction career when he made 2001: A Space Odyssey. He said 'Yeah and I'll finish you too' and he damn nearly did. He was a hard taskmaster. I put a sign saying Prisoner Cell Block 8 on my office door." Still, things weren't all bad during that period: "I was bonking [Kubrick's] god daughter at the time, unbelievably. She was this naughty model".' (Interview by Matilda Battersby, Independent, 29 July) [SG]

Memories of the Space Age. 'Email from someone who worked on the Shuttle Trajectory Server for Atlantis: "[Navigation Co-worker] shut down the Traj Server for the final time this morning. I'm told that before doing so he added to the messages the final words of Hal 9000, and then 'Will I dream?' Someone took video of this, and if they get it up to YouTube I'll let you know."' (Jonathan Clements, 21 July)

He's back! And he's better than ever!

As Others See China. In a bookshop. Customer (pointing at Perdido Street Station by China MiĆ©ville): 'Excuse me, how do you pronounce this writer's name?' Bookseller: 'Well, I've heard people say Mee-ville, but I think because of the accent, it's Me-eh-ville.' Customer: 'No, I mean his first name.' Bookseller: 'Well, it's China – like the country.' Customer: 'The country?' (Jen Campbell, Financial Times, 7 April) [RD]

Publishers & Sinners. Tom Doherty Associates announced on 24 April that by early July, ebooks from all its imprints (Tor, Forge, Orb etc) would be free of annoying DRM protection. Tor UK followed suit next day. This, Baen Books smirked, has been Baen policy for over ten years.
Physics Explained

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video on physics. Classic, classic stuff.