Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dance of the Moons

Worth embiggening. I could watch this stuff all day. And may do just that.

Thanks to Space Gizmo for the link. And Cassini. And the JPL. And NASA.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Known Universe

The entire known universe. Every satellite, moon, planet, star, galaxy and quasar known to man. To scale, and in the correct location. Deeply cool.

From the American Museum of Natural History in NYC.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I get up in the middle of the night, most nights, to go to the bathroom. A habit of middle age, I am certain, but I find myself enjoying it, savoring the moment each night. I awake with scraps of dreams in my head. Get out from under the covers. The soft hardwood of the bedroom under my feet shifts to the heavy pile of the hallway carpet, then the cold tile of the bathroom. As I pee my dreams are already disappearing, like fine sand sifting through the gaps between my fingers. I finish, pad back, tile to carpet to hardwood, walking between worlds, between dreams and waking life. I crawl back under the blankets, chilled by the night air. I press myself against the warmth of my wife's back, relax, return to sleep. The alarm rings and I awake from dreams, only to give myself to them once again at the end of the day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Powerful Comforts

Our furnace went out last week, Tuesday, right in the middle of a cold snap. I guess it must have happened in late morning, but I didn't notice until afternoon, when it got too cold to work in my upstairs office. I called a local heating guy, took off the rest of the day from work, and settled down in the living room with a book and a blanket. There's a gas fireplace in the living room, so I could keep it heated in there until the heating guy showed up. Kinda cozy.

The cats usually sleep in the upstairs bedrooms all day, but they showed up cold and confused in the living room within the hour. They hung out with me in the only warm room in the house, while we waiting for the heating guy together.

Our bedroom was 52 degrees when he finally showed up. He had the furnace up and running within a half hour of showing up, and it was warming rapidly by the time the girls came home.

For the rest of the week, every time the furnace chugged on I was caught by surprise. Such a primal fear, to be caught in the cold with no way to get warm. Such a powerful comfort, to have a source of heat in the winter. I'd argue that the abiding popularity of Christmas stems not from Christianity, or commercialism, but from the simple archtypical need to stay warm, and have food on the table, and a safe place for your loved ones, on the shortest day of the year. Hearth and home.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


This isn't Photoshop; it's a real thing, appearing over the skies of Norway this morning. What kind of thing is less certain. UFO'ers are typically certain it's a spaceship, the smart money says it's a rocket spiraling out of control and ejecting fuel as it does so. Neither of those explanations are particularly satisfying. Cool picture, though.

I'm sure it'll make the rounds of the news shows tonight, in the last five minutes they reserve for cute kittens and general weirdness. Then it'll be forgotten.

My own opinion is that there's a lot of unexplained stuff out there. Doesn't mean it's paranormal, or extraterrestrial. We just don't know what it is. We're not as smart as we think we are. Google "electrical sprites" sometime, you'll see what I mean.

Video of the damned thing is here, along with ominous space music in the background.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Down the Rabbit Hole

Just pushed myself to finish Beautiful Children, by Charles Bock. Had some soaring moments, but I was frequently frustrated with it. I don't trust writers who spend pages and pages inside their character's heads, doing the whole interior monologue thing. It's easy. It's false. It posits that people think in sentences and paragraphs and a calm, reasoned emotional logic. It believes in a kind of linear a-to-b psychology that only happens in books, not in real people's heads.

Show me with dialogue. Show me with behavior. Make something frikkin happen.

This last week I've settled down with Stephen King's behemoth novel, Under the Dome. I like Stephen King. I trust Stephen King. He's a generous writer, with large casts of characters and epic plots. He can be a lazy writer - I find myself wishing with about half of his books that he'd have taken it through one more draft - but he delivers what he promises to deliver. A good story. At least one or two Interesting characters. And, in his best books, a metaphor at the center of the story that you can pursue if you choose to. I though his last, Duma Key, was an effective meditation on grieving and loss.


I haven't been able to read very much of this year because I've spent my free time writing. So it's a great pleasure to be able to kick back with a book this last week. I've talked before in this blog about how starting a good book gives me a sensation of falling, that I'm being taken to another place, like Alice going down the rabbit hole. I think that might be the simplest requirement of great writing, or any great art for that matter. Take me to another place.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I've put the novel to bed. Second draft is done, if a little hurriedly. Not gonna look at it again til the Christmas vortex has sucked us in and spit us out on the other side. Til then I'm gonna read a big, fat, utterly undemanding Stephen King novel.

Speaking of, I've bought no Christmas presents, put up no decorations. That will all start happening this weekend. Repeat after me: I will not get stressed by Christmas, I will not get stressed by Christmas, I will not get stressed by Christmas...

My eldest, I've learned, now reads the nutrition panels of the cereal boxes every morning. And chooses the one with the most sugar. I'm not sure that was the expected result of posting that information on the boxes.

Not alotta structure to this post. I'm pretty scattered, not unhappily. Here's a short clip of the parade I was in last weekend. No, we're not in it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

At Their Mercy

I fired up the laptop Sunday to learn it was no longer "recognizing the AC power source." Called customer support and, after 20 minutes of being on hold, learned that this problem is apparently so common the guy could diagnose it within the first 2 sentences out of my mouth, and tell me I need a new motherboard. I need to send it in to the manufacturer so they can replace it. I had about 40 minutes of battery life left, so I had to then quickly dump my most important docs (e.g. the novel, family pictures) to my back-up hard drive. And I'm now awaiting a box they are sending me so I can send my laptop to them, which they can then send back to me, fixed, in about two weeks.

The laptop is less than six months old, so the replacement is free. But it is shockingly difficult to be without my laptop, even though I have a work desktop in my office upstairs. What, I can't edit the novel while making supper tonight? I can't check Facebook while on the toilet? They've made me (okay - I've made myself) utterly reliant on having a laptop by my side at all times. So now that it's broken, I'm utterly reliant on them.