Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Closeup: New World

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a view of "dwarf planet" Ceres from the orbiting Dawn spacecraft. What causes those bright patches? Is it ice? And what's with that mountain? The next year of this mission (until fuel runs out) will be very interesting!

Monday, June 29, 2015

No, Four. Two, Two, Four. And Noodles!

"Sushi. That's what my ex-wife used to call me. 'Cold Fish.'"

In New York July 3? Like Blade Runner? Want to try some food inspired by the movie? See the "Summer Sci-Fi" Listing here for Basilica Hudson.

Overhead blimp: A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure.

Sushi Master: Nan-ni shimasho-ka? [Japanese for: "What would you like to have?"]

Overhead blimp: A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure. New climate, recreational facilities...

Deckard (voice-over): They don't advertise for killers in the newspaper. That was my profession. Ex-cop, ex-blade runner, ex-killer.

Overhead blimp: ...absolutely free...Use your new friend as a personal body servant or a tireless field hand—the custom tailored genetically engineered humanoid replicant designed especially for your needs. So come on America, lets put our team up there...

[Deckard walks over to Japanese carry-out stand]

Sushi Master: ...akimashita, akimashita. Irasshai, irasshai. [pause] Sa dozo. Nan-ni shimasho-ka? [Japanese for: "Now you can sit here. Come on. Well, what would you like to have?"]

Deckard: Give me four.

Sushi Master: Futatsu de jubun desuyo. [Japanese for: "Two must be enough for you"]

Deckard: No, four. Two, two, four.

Sushi Master: Futatsu de jubun desuyo. [Japanese for: "Two must be enough for you"]

Deckard: And noodles.

Sushi Master: Wakatte kudasai yo. [Japanese for: "Please understand me."]

Deckard (voice-over): Sushi, that's what my ex-wife called me. Cold fish.

Policeman: Hey, idi-wa.

Gaff: Monsier, ada-na kobishin angum bi-te. [Cityspeak for: "You will be required to accompany me, sir."]

Sushi Master: He say you under arrest, Mr. Deckard.

Deckard: Got the wrong guy, pal.

Gaff: Lo-faast! Nehod[y] maar! Te vad[y] a Blade...Blade Runner!

Nice Grouping

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing a sunspot group parading across the face of the Sun. More auroral activity in the offing?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bricks in the Wall

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is not a wall of bricks either painted or cast in all the colors of a rainbow. It is our home star, the Sun, broken apart into a spectrum.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Time of the Triangle

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us the three stars of the Summer Triangle: Aquila's Altair, Deneb of Cygnus and Lyra's Vega all form an informal constellation that rides high in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year.

Transvenus Injection

Once NASA had a robust program of post-lunar landing Apollo missions. What we only ever saw of this was Skylab, but plans existed to send Apollo to Mars and to Venus. Here's an article (including a short film) on the Venus mission.

What If?

Ayn Rand considered as a space opera.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Aurora from Above

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows recent auroral activity in the skies of Earth...as seen from the International Space Station.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Circles in the Sky

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows time-elapse star trails in the sky above Table Mountain. Amazing how many stars are shown given the lights on the ground.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Meeting Place

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the meet up between the Moon, Venus and Jupiter in our early evening sky this past week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


A fascinating look at the evolution of graphics on cardboard counters representing units in a wargame. (I still prefer cardboard and miniatures over computer versions!)

Inflation Theory

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Sharpless 308, a planetary nebula in the constellation of Canis Major.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Globular Close-Up

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier Catalog Object Five, between the constellations of Libra and Serpens. The Hubble Space Telescope brings us to a "close" view; here's the sight from a smaller telescope (still well worth seeking out, as are all globular clusters).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Black Eye

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of Messier 64 in the constellation of Coma Berenices. This galaxy is also known as the Black Eye Galaxy, or, most obscurely, the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy. Aerial commuters might have called it the Red-Eye Galaxy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier 45 in the constellation of Taurus. Also known as The Pleiades, or (although not as popular these days) The Seven Sisters.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Bill Bryson: A Walk in the Woods—Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (Broadway Books; 1999; ISBN 978-0767902526).

David Miller: AWOL on the Appalachian Trail (Mariner Books; 2011; ISBN 978-0547745527).

This year I decided to concentrate more on non-fiction (with mixed results). Two of the books I read this year dealt with travels on the Appalachian Trail. Two more different books you could not find!

Bill Bryson decides to reconnect with the United States after a long time away by walking on the Appalachian Trail. He is joined by a friend, Stephan Katz and the pair of them stumble onto the Appalachian Trail, festooned with odd bits of equipment, candy, and many noodles.

David Miller, on the other hand, walks the trail with a very rigorous approach. He has carefully researched equipment, regular supply drops and more. He generally traveled the trail on his own, other than occasional encounters in shelters or on the trail itself.

There are similarities. Both authors enjoy the beauty, the reconnecting with nature. And the change in attitude, such as in this quote from Bryson:

Each time you leave the cossetted and hygienic world of towns and take yourself into the hills, you go through a series of staged transformations—a kind of gentle descent into squalor—and each time it is as if you have never done it before. At the end of the first day, you feel mildly, self-consciously, grubby; by the second day, disgustingly so; by the third, you are beyond caring; by the fourth, you have forgotten what it is like not to be like this.

But then there are spectacular differences. Miller manages to walk the entire trail. Bryson and Katz bail out after a while; Bryson does some more on weekends and they hook up to finish the last section (only to bail again):

Pinned to a wall was a map showing the whole of the Appalachian Trail on its long march through fourteen states, but with the eastern seaboard rotated to give the AT the appearance of having a due north-south orientation, allowing the mapmaker to fit the trail into an orderly rectangle, about six inches wide and four feet high.

I looked at it with a polite, almost proprietorial interest—it was the first time since leaving New Hampshire that I had considered the trail in its entirety—and then inclined closer, with bigger eyes and slightly parted lips. Of the four feet of trail map before me, reaching approximately from my knees to the top of my head, we had done the bottom two inches.

Both are good books. Miller is more a guidebook (and he has written a book on the trail and maintains a website about trekking the trail) and Bryson is more a history of the trail, a commentary on nature...and humor. In fact, I could not read Bryson at night in bed because I would laugh so much I was afraid of waking my wife.

The differences, again, are striking. Miller talks equipment. A lot of equipment. He changes packs. He changes shoes. Bryson? Well, the final pair of quotes is from an encounter Bryson had at one shelter:

I knew with a sinking heart that we were going to talk equipment. I could just see it coming. I hate talking equipment.

“So what made you buy a Gregory pack?” he said. “Well, I thought it would be easier than carrying everything in my arms.” He nodded thoughtfully, as if this were an answer worth considering, then said: “I’ve got a Kelty.”

Going Mobile

Workers (mostly digital) who travel rather than settle. Not sure if we have enough data points for a "trend", but some interesting reading. My thought: Before I read the article, I mirrored the one commentator's "exhausting".

Reading List

An interesting article on fiction and on-fiction reading for thinkers of strategy (at some point this will translate via some wonk into a list for business and it will become "relevant"; I'm saying you some time!).

Question: Why does Ender's Game keep showing up on these lists higher than, say, The Forever War or Fields of Fire or The 13th Valley or Matterhorn?

Food, Glorious Food (002)

Can't cook? Worried about cooking when you start raising a family? There's one easy trick to overcoming your fears: Get in the kitchen and make mistakes!

Maybe this piece was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but...goodness...FOOD KITS? FOOD START UPS?

Food, Glorious Food (001)

Two parts of an ongoing (?) series from War on the Rocks about food in the military. Part 01: Hardtack Will Come Around No More (thank goodness!). Part 02: A particular favorite, to be honest: S.O.S. Especially with eggs!

20 Years

Happy birthday to the Astronomy Picture of the Day! I have not been posting them for 20 years (in the various forms this blog has had), but pretty close!