Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Not much to say. In the middle of many things. Nearing the end of a couple of two big undertakings (the New Novel and selling the old house) and at the beginning of another (the sundial). Gearing up for Halloween by making costumes for our Oz-obsessed daughters, who will be Glinda the Good Witch and Dorothy. Lil Hux and her Mom are doing the lion's share of the work. I'm in charge of the Glinda's wand and crown.

So, since clowncars and nature both abhor a vacuum, here's a trio of gorgeous images cherry-picked from the ever fascinating Space Gizmo. They are, in order, phytoplankton blooms off the coast of New Zealand, the ao-Rusyr caldera of the Kuril Islands in Russia, and the Tanezrouft Basin in Algeria. Thanks, Space Gizmo! I could look at this stuff all day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pogue Mahone*

Saw a great Pogues concert this weekend with Tolstoy in Denver. It takes a lot to get me outta the house and to a real concert these days, but the toothless, drunken, and still brilliant Shane MacGowan was fronting the band again, so I went.

The place was like a huge crowed Irish bar. Everyone singing, dancing, hugging, fighting, surging, screaming. I've been to concerts before where the crowd was singing along - Springsteen comes to mind - but the singing was self-conscious, more like they were replaying the album in their head, or pretending to be a rock star. This was different. Singing as communion. What I'm guessing it must've been like to be at a bar or a beer hall before TVs, before jukeboxes, when all people had to entertain themselves was each other.

Here's one of my top ten songs of all time. Shane and the band look a lot older now. So do I.

*Kiss my ass in Gaelic.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Space Art

Looking down this time, for a change.

This is the Republic of Cape Verde, a group of volcanic islands off Africa’s west coast. It's worth clicking to embiggen it, just to check out the detail.

I got it from my most recent favorite website, Space Gizmo. He posts lots of satellite images of Earth. And you gotta dig the name.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Seven Christmases

Signed off on an offer on the old house. Lotsa daylight between an offer and the money being in your bank account, but it looks pretty solid. It'll be nice to be paying only one mortgage again. No more Ramen!

We went over to the old house on Sunday to clean up, rake, decide on some repairs before the inspection. It was different looking at the house without the anxiety of preparing it for sale hovering over things. This was the first house the lil hux and I owned, the second we lived in together. Had a wedding reception there. Celebrated seven Christmases in that tiny living room. Taught the girls to ride their bikes in the parking lot across the street. Played with Play-do on the kitchen table. Pitched whiffle-ball in the front yard. Birthday parties. Skinned knees. Thunderstorms. Memory collects like dust on your skin. Time is a wind at your face.

Writing odds and ends: got a story accepted at Fiction at Work. Goes up Nov. 4th. I'll post a link.

Eric has an excellent story up at Splinter Generation. Go read it. Now.

73K into the New Novel. A handful of chapters left and I'll be done. Of course, all that means is that I turn around and start the second draft. So, no cause for great celebration. But still. It is cause for some celebration.

I noticed during the Yankee-Angel game that the website they advertise on the dugouts is "bankofamerica/yankees." So rooting for the Yankees is no longer like rooting for Bank of America. Rooting for the Yankees quite literally is rooting for Bank of America.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Not a tattoo on human skin.

Not a design on cloth.

Not a work of art.

It's sand dunes on Mars. Sand dunes, dust, swirling dust devils. Go to Bad Astronomy for a more complete explanation of what's what; it's where I stole the picture from.

The picture was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

I'd say more, but am frankly left rather speechless. Just gorgeous.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


No, it's not the study of gnomes.

There is a dull, barren triangle across the street from our house and I am trying to convince the city to let me build a sundial there. I emailed them, they emailed me back and are ready to set up a meeting with me and as many of my neighbors as I can drag with me. Now that they've called my bluff, I'm in the process of learning how to build one.

There are lotsa different kinds, and you can get lost in the details fairly quickly. The easiest to build would be the one pictured above: find true north, put up the pole (it's called a "gnomon") at the appropriate angle, pour the concrete, measure the angles and put down the marker lines. You can get the angles for your latitude at many different sites.

The one above is the one I'm gonna push for. A human sundial! You stand on the month, and your shadow tells you the time! Much cooler, but the process is quite a bit more complex, as you've got to figure out the standing positions for each month, and I can't quite figure that part out yet. There are companies out there who will sell you the layout, but no place I've found that will allow you to calculate the values themselves.

Here's a picture of a finished one.

Of course, were I a little more ambitious, I'd build me one of these.

Anyone have an idea of how to calculate positions for the human sundial (I think they are called "analemmatic" sundials), gimme a shout.

Monday, October 12, 2009



We watched The Wizard of Oz with the girls a few weeks back. The were not scared by the flying monkeys or the Wicked Witch.

This last weekend we watched the first Harry Potter movie with the girls. They were not scared by the giant three headed dog or Valdemort (and he was scary!).

We check out this goofy book of scary stories from the library. One of them goes like this: A boy meets a girl. She tells him never to remove the green ribbon around her neck. They fall in love, get married. He asks about the ribbon, she says he must never remove it. Finally, on her deathbed, she says he can remove the green ribbon. He does, and...wait for it...her head falls off!

That stupid story gave them both nightmares.

Go figure.

I suppose you can tease something out of that about how the printed word is more powerful than the celluloid image, but I'm not going to bother.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I've written several times now about the paranoid and gullible ravings of Coast-to-Coast, the late night radio show I've been addicted to for over a decade. Their territory: UFOs, Bigfoot, the chupacabra, hollow Earth theories. I don't listen because I believe it (though I do believe maybe 10% of the time). I listen because it's interesting and entertaining. I think of it as the bubbling Id of the true American psyche.

The CtC listeners are all abuzz about the Friday morning LCROSS impact on the moon. Some background: NASA is slamming a spacecraft into the south pole of the moon at 5600 mph, to kick up a plume of dust and see if it has water in it. It'll happen at 5:31 Friday morning MST, and should be bright enough to see if you have a big enough telescope, as the cloud is expected to rise 6 miles or more above the surface.

The crazy bit: CtC's resident space conspiracy theorist, Richard C. Hoagland, says that the real reason for the impact is so NASA can destroy their secret moon base there, used in the US's secret war on UFOs. Who knew? They want to get rid of any evidence of the base before other countries discover it. He goes on to say that the result will not be a 6 mile high cloud, but a huge fireball, as ammunition and fuel and oxygen ignite. So, if there's a huge flash at the bottom of the moon as you're going off to work tomorrow, well, you heard it here first.

I will not be awake to watch the impact, though I am tempted. I'm on the right part of the globe, and my scope is at the bottom end of the range big enough to see it. If you are interested in trying to see it, NASA has a very informative page on how to do so (you can also watch it online). The crater is called Cabeus A, and I stole a picture from NASA and posted it above.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mama Comet

Comets, it turns out, can have babies.

Just before I started this blog I got to see one of my favorite comets ever - Comet Holmes - in the December sky. It was supposed to be a ho-hum not very bright comet, invisible to the naked eye, but suddenly exploded in brightness, becoming a million times brighter in less than a day, surprising everyone. It became easy to see, even through the glare of light from a small town. I watched it from my backyard for several nights running.

What happened was, Holmes spawned a bunch of mini-comets, rushing away from it at 280 mph, some of them big enough to have their own tails. No one has ever seen this happen before. Even though Comet Holmes was/is only a coupla miles wide, the sphere of dust and ice ejected was bigger than the sun. You can see the sphere of material pretty clearly in the picture. This is actually what it looked like through binoculars. Not as detailed, of course, but you could see the bright center and the less dense cloud surrounding it.

There is a theory that comets brought water and amino acids to Earth, thus providing it with the building blocks for life. So those baby comets may go on to create babies of an entirely different kind one day, on a planet, a moon.

The comet remained intact, and is returning in 2014, six years later. I'll be looking forward to seeing what happens this next time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

6 Sentences

Got another piece up over at 6 Sentences I wrote in my head while mowing the lawn last weekend. Go read it now, I'll wait.

Other than that everyone over here is sick, so not much to report. Luckily, we have The Wizard of Oz to watch while we cough the day away.