Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Recently upon the intertubez there was visited a mighty wind of complaint that those of us who had many books, and posted pictures of such, were some sort of mark of elitism. (This was an evolution out of the mighty wind about the "selfie", in of itself an amusing wind.)

Bollocks, I say. Bollocks. Owning books is a mark of educating oneself, improving oneself, entertaining oneself. Thinking. Striving. Wrestling. "A man's reach ought to exceed his grasp—" and all that.

I own something on the order of 10,000 physical books and about 5,000 electronic books and a couple of hundred audiobooks. They are among my most prized possessions. They are objects of my own choice. Nobody has fed these to me in a stream of no choice (e.g., television). They take me to places where I cannot go, entertain me with stories, allow me to speak to people (authors, historical figures, fictional characters) that I'll never have a chance to meet. Elitism? Bollocks, books are the great equalizer. Spread them to the 99%, it's our greatest weapon against the 1%.

Nice to see others do not agree with the claim of elitism.

Inside the Nebula

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Horsehead Nebula inside the constellation of Orion. I've only managed to spot this a few times from my light-soaked skies!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Circle of Economy

Buy a book. You really have no choice.

Abandon in Place

An abandoned steel factory. Likes like the setpiece for a classic Traveller adventure.

Weather Forecast

Baby, It's Cold Outside.

More Reading

Enough said. Just read.

Fictional Lives

Reading books and entangling lives.

Hah Hah History

A brief history of The History Channel. What a wasteland.

More Arboreal Aurora

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing auroral activity over Norway. Wonderous skies of frozen faerie.


There are people who dislike The USA Trilogy by the incomparable John Dos Passos? A pox upon them, I say. A pox!

A Sense of Loss

A very moving piece about reading, life, and the shocks that occur that throw us for a loop. The last time I tried to read Godel, Escher, Bach was in January 2002 when I suffered an attack (I now recognize it for what it was, back then nobody was very helpful) of post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by the events of September 11, 2001 and days afterwards of smoke, bodies and girders. I tried many times that night in the hospital (as I was suffering symptoms of what I thought was some sort of heart issue) trying to read and re-read the book, getting further than I had been on the bus when I started to have issues (well, more issues). I couldn't make the words work and haven't gone back to that book since.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Into the Stargate

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a time-lapse sequence of auroral activity over Alaska. It puts me in mind of the stargate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Common Stuff

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an aggregation of the most common element in the universe: hydrogen. Who knew such common stuff could be so beautiful? (Mouseover the image for an alternative view.)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Geminids over the deserts of Chile. "Mouseover" the image for a guide to the constellations.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Eclipsing Analemma

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an analemma (images of the Sun taken from the same position, over time to trace the path across the sky over a long period of time) which includes the 2006 eclipse.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Essential Operas

A list of essential space operas courtesy of monkey-man Gareth L. Powell. Note, "new space opera" (I could think of five or more classic space opera titles to add to a more expanded list.). Good books all.

Subtle Moon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows our Moon in a different light. Many different lights.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jade Rabbit

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover that has been deployed by China's Chang'e 3 spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. Nice to be back on the magnificent desolation.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Europa, Europa!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows one of the four moons of Jupiter's discovered by Galileo, Europa. This view was also captured by Galileo, in this case the venerable orbiter which explored Jupiter's mini-system for several years. Europa is again in the news, with evidence that it vents (like Saturn's moon Enceladus) water into space.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cosmic Bubbles

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day takes us to Cassiopeia, home of NGC 7635, more commonly known as The Bubble Nebula. Will it ever go "pop"?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka, the trio of stars that form the "belt" of Orion. Also visible are a number of nebula, including the very elusive (to me) Horsehead.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Seyfert's Sextet, a group of interacting galaxies in the constellation of Serpens. What will result from the action on a large scale?

Monday, December 9, 2013

John Schoenherr

The Omni Reboot site takes a look at the paintings John Schoenherr did for Frank Herbert's Dune series, especially the first book. I fondly recall the Dune calendar which features these paintings, along with the original hardcover and the installments in the 1960's temporarily-larger-than-digest Analog. He really is the man behind the look of the Dune universe.

More Lovejoy

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Lovejoy (Comet C/2013) over the skies of France.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"...listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go..."

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the top of Husband Hill by the long-lived MER Spirit in 2005. This is one of those images that you're just going to want to download and look at and expand and look at...

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a new nova which has appeared in the skies of the southern hemisphere: Take a look at Centaurus and see if you can spot Nova Cen 2013!

Friday, December 6, 2013

2,000 Days

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the gamma-ray sky courtesy of the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, recently passing through it's 2,000th day in orbit.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Number Seven

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the seventh entry in the Abell Catalog, a planetary nebula in the Constellation of Lepus (the Hare).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Rho Ophiuchi

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the gaseous and dust clouds of the Rho Ophiuchi region. Off to one side is Messier 4, a globular cluster.

Monday, December 2, 2013


He's back! Dave Langford IS the internet!
The Weakest Link. SF clue in the US Jeopardy show: 'This French author's tomb was featured on the frontispiece of Amazing Stories Magazine for many years.' Contestant: 'Who is H.G. Wells?' [AIP]
Always a great read.

Going Mobile

(For the moment, this will serve as a placeholder until I have a moment to write an actual review.)

For some odd reason, many of the books I re-read this year dealt with travel. Or, plots that trotted the globe. They were:

Neil Gaiman: American Gods, Anansi Boys.

William Gibson: Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, Zero History.

Neal Stephenson: The Baroque Cycle (to date, only Quicksilver has been re-read).

Author's who write about travel. People who travel. Here are two interesting folks who do both: Damien G. Walter, Graham Holliday.

Beware the Cometeers!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows one of several comets in our night sky, C/2013 R1 Lovejoy. With a distinctly greenish glow, Lovejoy is having me hearken back to the Golden Age of science fiction.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Star Wars!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows astronomers at the Very Large Telescope in Chile firing lasers at the stars? Space war? No, measuring atmospheric blurring, the bane of good "seeing" everywhere.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bare Survivor

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing the fall of Comet ISON towards the Sun. ISON appears to have survived...barely. It is significantly diminished in magnitude and even form.

Friday, November 29, 2013


A nice gallery of of shots from the long-running Cassini orbiter: Saturn, the rings, the mini-system of moons and more.

Sun Diver

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet ISON doing it's deep dive around the Sun. Initially reported as completely destroyed, it now appears that the comet survived, greatly diminished.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Another Nebula in Orion

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows another nebular cloud in the constellation of Orion, "south" of the more famous Messier 42, the Great Nebula in Orion.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing Comet ISON in the dawn sky. Will ISON survive it's plunge towards the Sun?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shock and Awe

I have somehow managed to read seventy-two books so far this year (and the year isn't over).

I work with people who rarely read, some manage one book every several years. This is my own technological singularity, how the heck can you not read?

Luckily, there are still readers out there. For example, these folks who are active in the arts.

This is how I want to live. No room for books at home? Visit a library! Our future depends on people with active imaginations and well-furnished minds.

On Point

Neil Gaiman on NPR's On Point. Some good stuff here.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a "cap cloud" over the Sierra Nevada mountains. The mothership is coming!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Missing are Deadly

George Eliot's portable writing desk is still missing. Have you seen this desk?

Multiple Bams

The Hubble Space Telescope has caught sight of a second supernova explosion in spiral galaxy NGC 6984 (located in the constellation of Indus).

Addendum: What a supernova remnant looks like. NGC 6946, known as the "Fireworks Galaxy" has played host to a number of stellar explosions.

Active Region

Glowing gas in the Sagittarius arm of the home galaxy.


New evidence has been discovered for the presence of a jet of high-energy particles emitting (blasting) out of the supermassive black hole at the core of our galaxy. It's a dangerous place out there.

Addendum: This is a view from NGC 4945 showing a view into the central region of that galaxy.

Pine Island

This Large Image from NASA shows the Pine Island Glacier in the process of separating from the continent of Antarctica. Foolish humans! How long before the Primordial Ones can escape from their frozen sleep?


Peanut butter and jelly. It's all about the racism.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Hale-Bopp over the skies of Joshua Tree National Park (California) in 1997.

It's Origin and Purpose are Still a Mystery

A short documentary from 1966 exploring the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Have we gotten the opening line of Beowulf wrong, lo, all these many years?

Mr. Sandman

A gallery of Dave McKean art for Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. Gaiman and McKean discuss how Sandman came to be. Gaiman on libraries.


Susan Sontag to Jorge Luis Borges, books and more.

Eldritch Horrors

Scouting New York (a great site) discovers H.P. Lovecraft's eldritch horrors of New York City.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

15 Years On

How big has the International Space Station grown since the first module was launched fifteen years ago? Take a look.

Addendum: An infographic (downloadable) of the ISS. Image from the initial stages of on-orbit construction.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video taken by the STEREO-A spacecraft. Comet Encke (which has survived the trip many times) and Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) are falling ever closer to the Sun. Will ISON survive?

Daily Grind

A new book takes a look at the odd daily rituals of the writing class. Sex, drugs and rock and roll and much more.

Death and Beyond

Happy 50th Anniversary to Doctor Who! The show that was once cancelled and revived, growing in popularity in the U.S. (where you can find Doctor Who in Hot Topic) and beyond.

Friday, November 22, 2013

California Dreaming

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a portion of the sky (see the image of the Moon for a guide to how big a portion) between the constellations of Taurus and Perseus. Given sufficient light-gathering power you would be treated with this view.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cubesats Away!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows November 19's launch of a Minotaur 1 rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia. The vehicle was carrying a cargo made up of twenty-nine "cubesats" (many built by high school students). This makes the third launch from Wallops that I've been able to see from my backyard

Addendum: And more cubesats on the way!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Wallet Cringes

In the latest episode of The Three Hoarsemen, we help you empty the money from your wallet.

Blade Runner

Gaff: Monsieur, azonnal kövessen engem, bitte!

[Deckard gestures to Sushi Master for translation]

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

Deckard: Got the wrong guy, pal.

Gaff: Lófaszt! Nehogy már! Te vagy a Blade, Blade Runner!

Sushi Master: He say you blade runner.

Deckard: Tell him I'm eating.

Gaff: Captain Bryant toka. Meni-o mae-yo.

Deckard: Bryant, huh?

Blade Runner as a series of watercolors. You're welcome.

Bigger Than Worlds

A visualization of Larry Niven's Ringworld. When's the movie?

On the Edge

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an artist conception of the strange space around a black hole. 4U1630-47 displays jets of energy coming from it's poles. What causes this?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful shot from the Hubble Space Telescope showing globular cluster M15 in the constellation of Pegasus. This is one of the relatively few globular clusters you can observe in the fall or winter sky. In a "amateur" instrument it takes on the appearance of a swarm of bees or a sprinkling of diamonds.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Murray Ridge

Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity settles into it's winter work area, Murray Ridge, on the western rim of Endeavour Crater on Mars. Opportunity's ninety-day (Sol) mission started in 2004. Think about that. That is one hell of a return on investment. I wish my car would work that long between repairs!

Arc of the Diver

Expedition 38 to the International Space Station launches from it's pad and arcs gracefully into space.


The Atlas V launch vehicle with NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) vehicle perched on top is lit by searchlights on this, the eve of it's first launch window.

Full McNaught

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet McNaught (the "Great Comet" of 2007) and it's highly-extended tail. Will Comet ISON rival this sight?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Comet ISON

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a "positive" and "negative" image of Comet ISON from November 15. The comet has undergone a dramatic jump in activity (and brightness) and is clearly visible with a low power/high field of view device (binoculars, for example). A bit more of a jump in brightness and it should be visible (in dark skies).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Flash! Aaa-aaa!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another (very different) view of the recent eclipse: at the moment of totality, a diffraction grating is used to capture the Sun's spectrum.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the World shows NGC 1097, a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Fornax. The galaxy displays four jets, all centered on the galaxies central black hole (but possibly not coming from there).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Launch Prep

The MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft undergoes launch preparations in this image from NASA. First launch "window" is on November 18, from 1328 to 1528 Eastern Standard Time.

In the Shadow of the Rings

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Saturn and it's rings. And...if you look closely ("mouseover"), Mars, Venus and the Earth-Moon pair.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tailed Rock

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Asteroid P5 in our own asteroid belt. Which has unexpectedly spawned multiple tails. Light pressure? Multiple hits from smaller rocks?

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Many-Layered Star

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another (unique) view of the recent solar eclipse. Images from multiple orbiting observatories (working in different spectrum's of light) are combined to show Sol at the eclipse.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lovejoy Amongst the Beehive

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Lovejoy (C/2013 R1) one of four comets that you can see (given optics and dark skies) among the stars of the morning sky. Here it "zooms" past Messier 44, the Beehive Cluster, in the constellation of Cancer.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the recent solar eclipse from Uganda. At the moment of totality, the corona and the prominences appear.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's the Map, It's the Map, It's the Map

Jason Thompson is recreating classic D&D adventures on maps. The Slave Pits of the Undercity! The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (say that five times fast)! The Isle of Dread! Ravenloft!

High View

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the recent solar eclipse from a unique perspective: 44,000 feet high and above the obscuring clouds.

Neigh! Neigh!

So, I'm on a podcast! Actually, I've been on more than one podcast, but now I am (along with Jeff Patterson and John Stevens) one of The Three Hoarsemen (subtitled "of the Apocalypse" or "in the Balcony" at various times).

Past episodes (and a link to the feed page):

The Three Hoarsemen Cometh! Get Off My SF Lawn!

The Three Hoarsemen Ride!

Life Gets in the Way of Fandom.

And...our current episode (and our first in-depth book coverage): The Three Hoarsemen Discuss Samuel R. Delany's NOVA.


Ernst Stuhlinger tackles the question: Why (spend money on) explore space?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013


(I somehow overlooked the e-mail, so I'm posting this retroactively!)

It's Movember! Time for a new issue of Ansible from Dave Langford!
It's more than science fiction: "Sir Ben Kingsley argues that the Ender's Game film has qualities that mere sf fans won't appreciate: 'I think there's a much bigger audience than just your science fiction fans – we'll get them as well – but we'll also get people who want a philosophical journey, that journey of spirit through the film.' (Getreading.co.uk, 23 October) [MPJ]"
It's not science fiction: "Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five was cleared by the Sunday Times literary tribunal of any horrid genre taint: 'The cultish Vonnegut's part memoir, part study of psychosis and escape is not the sci-fi it's often dismissed as.' ('100 books to love', 6 October) [LC]"
Always worth a read.

New York Sunrise

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows an eclipsed Sun rising over New York City.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Double Shadow

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a composite of a 2005 solar eclipse that morphed over location from total to annular, giving different views of coverage.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Three by Three

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a recent shadow transit of the shadows of three moons (Callisto, Io and Europa) across the face of Jupiter. I've been lucky to see three shadows in one night, but never lucky enough to see three (or four!) at once.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7841 in the constellation of Frustriaus. What's really interesting (other than the beautiful structure) about this nebula is it's location. Howdy, neighbor!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Dream Within a Dream

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the complex nebular structures in the constellation of Orion: Messier 42, the Great Orion Nebula and embedded within, the inky darkness of the Horsehead.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Great Comet...

...of 1680 is the subject of today's Astronomy Picture of the Day. Will Comet ISON develop a spectacular tail and dominate our (light polluted) skies?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Few Less Missing

I've been beating the band about various authors or individual titles that I would love to buy as eBooks, even if I already have paper editions. Money on the table! Just sitting there!

It looks like a good chunk of what I've wanted—novels (but, alas, not the short stories—yet)—from Samuel R. Delany are about to be "electrified". Good news!


A look at the "strangest book ever published", the Codex Seraphinianus. I've never been able to get a used copy (they go for generally hilarious prices), but now it is coming back into print.

Delicate Language

An amusing look at the stock phrases of travel literature and travel reporting. Let's hear it for the romantic smiling staff!


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a view from the long-running SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) satellite that has been observing our home star since 1995. Over that time it has discovered some 1,500 comets, including many like the one pictured, a "sungrazer". Not all sungrazing comets survive their encounter with that really big gravity well!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Back to the Roots

Neil Gaiman on the new Sandman, set before the old Sandman. Addendum: For those on the west coast (US), you're closer than I to this exhibit of Sandman art.

Caroline's Rose

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7789, in the constellation of Cassiopeia (home of many wonderful clusters). Popularly known as Caroline's Rose, it was discovered by Caroline Herschel (her brother was also an astronomer, perhaps you have heard of him as well).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pegasus Hat

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 7814, "The Little Sombrero" in the constellation of Pegasus. NGC 7814 is edge-on to us, giving us a different view than the more commonly known spiral view.

Tall Towers and New Books

Oh, tall towers and future writing projects. Some news about Neal Stephenson and his next books.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Galactic Sprawl

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a fantastic mosaic shot of the southern hemisphere view from 2007: the Milky Way, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds and Comet McNaught. Sign of things to come with Comet ISON?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Signposts for the Heavens

What is the reason for these giant arrows across the United States? An interesting bit of aviation history here.

Jason of Star Command

The man behind Jason of Star Command, Space Academy, Star Trek: The Animated Series and whole lot of other titles has passed away. Thanks, Lou Scheimer.

Cave of Stars

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Sh2-155, The Cave Nebula, in the constellation of Cepheus. Beautiful isn't it? I wonder why more people don't look up in the sky?

Friday, October 18, 2013

How the Mighty Have Fallen

I've got a large stack of Penguin Classics. Even in the age of the eBook, where I have stopped buying mass market paperbacks and trade paperbacks, I'll buy a nice Penguin Classics edition for the art or the commentary and notes and such.

Until now. Has the shark been jumped?

The Plot Thickens

Interesting to see these statistics on how field naturalists die. Is there a lot of tension in the field?

Looking Backwards

A look back at Samuel R. Delany's Triton. I read that during the Dhalgren-esque boost to Delany's career, when books like Babel-17, Nova and more all had a unified edition along with the hot-selling Dhalgren. Need to re-read it again!

M. John Harrison

A look at the major works of M. John Harrison, courtesy of The New Statesman. Genre really is spreading beyond the bounds.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the evening star, Venus, along with dust in our solar system (the zodiacal light) and the center of our galaxy (obscured by a much larger amount of dust).

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows you two naked eye objects you can easily see...and a third that you might in the near future: Regulus (in the constellation of Leo) and Mars are quite close together (seemingly) at the moment. Above, Comet ISON, on final approach to the inner system.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Deep Red

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of NGC 4472, The Great Carina Nebula. The bright star near the center, to the left of the Keyhole Nebula? Eta Carinae, a very likely supernova.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a "analemma" (a series of pictures taken over the course of the year from the same position) showing how the Sun moves about when it is "exactly overhead".

Sunday, October 13, 2013

T.E. Lawrence

Jamie James of The Wall Street Journal on T.E. Lawrence. If you haven't read Seven Pillars of Wisdom, give it a try. Wonderfully poetic writing. Lawrence was an interesting chap.

The movie ain't half bad, either.

Hanging Out in Sim City

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that Sim City is a poor digital analog to model railroading?

The Truth

Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators. (Stephen Fry)

The Issahar Artifacts

"I drowned three times and a purple octopus gave me an enema." Source? See this tale.

The Sky of Things to Come?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Hale-Bopp, the "Great Comet" of 1997. Hale-Bopp was a "naked-eye" comet for many months (and kept me company both walking to the bus early in the morning and walking home from the bus moderately late in the evening) for much of that time. Will Comet ISON be another "great comet"?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Stairway to Mars

Alternative missions to Mars are outlined here. I like the Stairway to Mars concept, it reminds me of von Braun's space fleets to Mars.

Python, Monty Python

What if Monty Python sold books?

Secret Histories

Tom Holland on the non-fiction of Herodotus. It's winding up, but did you know you can "follow" Herodotus on Twitter? I kid you not.

Birth Place

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows "cometary globules" (vast collections of dust and gas that might someday form stars) in this region of the constellations of Pupis and Vela.

Grist for the Mill

A hoard of jewels buried by accident? On purpose? Grist for the writer's mill. Hey, NaNoWriMo is coming...

Multi-National Suppliers, Multi-National Problems

Did you know that the Atlas V (latest version of a launch vehicle that started as a ballistic missile aimed at the Soviet Union) is powered by Russian rocket engines? What would happen if Russian-US relations were to get (more) sour?


Somehow I overlooked the fact that another month has come (and nearly half-gone) without looking at Dave Langford's Ansible!
As Others See Us. A self-consciously sophisticated and literary formulation of the 'if it's good it's not genre' tradition: 'We do not publish genre fiction – mystery, crime, science fiction, fantasy, and the like – but are certainly not opposed to considering work that self-consciously employs the tropes of formulaic writing for more sophisticated literary ends.' (Gettysburg Review submission guidelines) [TE]

As Others See Us II. A reminder that we are spurned all the way to the bank: 'What do the books of Terry Pratchett, the film Iron Man 3 and the video game Grand Theft Auto V have in common? The answer is that they are all regarded as "geek" pursuits, and therefore are not part of the cultural mainstream. That is bizarre. Mr Pratchett has sold more than 70m copies of his Discworld series of novels. Iron Man 3, based on a character from Marvel Comics, has the best box-office receipts of any movie this year. And Grand Theft Auto V, released yesterday by Rockstar of Edinburgh, is expected to take in more than $1bn in sales.' (Helen Lewis, Financial Times, 18 September) [MMW]

Good Eats!

Fifty years of space food and packaging for missions documented. From Mercury and Gemini's toothpaste tubes to the Skylab tray system to the Shuttle and the ISS. (Now how about a series for Russian meals?)

Tim Powers

An interview (video) with Tim Powers. Good stuff.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dust Never Sleeps

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 891, a galaxy in the constellation of Andromeda. NGC 891 is edge-on in our perspective, giving a nice view of the dust lanes (showing her giving the galaxy a somewhat mottled appearance).

Dune, At Last

Sort of. Way back in the Dawn Times, the periodicals (mainly Heavy Metal) would bring us word of a soon-to-be film version of Frank Herbert's Dune. No, not the Lynch effort that eventually lurched onto the screen (has it's merits, but deeply flawed) but a entirely different effort. It never came to be and the legend grew in the telling. Coming soon! A documentary about a film that has never been made. It will join another documentary about another movie never made and a book about a Stanley Kubrick movie never made. It's an industry in the making.

iPad, Old School

A replica of the Roman style wax table, the iPad back in "the day". Impress your friends!

Just the Facts, Ma'm

We live in an era of incredible information flow. What is the signal? What is the noise? It seems the "mainstream media", enamored as they are on the 24x7x365 news cycle rather than analysis generates more noise than helpful signal.

So, it is nice to find a source where you get a lot of signal (concise information, sharp analysis) vs. noise. Like the podcast I am listening to as I write this: The Loopcast. The episode I have on now is a deep analysis of drones: what they are, what they are used for, costs, results and more. Good stuff. Even an occasional look at Star Wars or Game of Thrones! Recommended.

Random Penguin

Reading the Penguin Classics. All of them. Surely when you're bored you can find at least one title in here and read along?

..."seasoned with a very adult dose of horror"...

Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere has been banned in a town in New Mexico. Oh, New Mexico. Get over it

Addendum: It's gone (inter)national.

Addendum: Coverage of the banning over at Tor Dot Com.

Addendum: Wot's all the fuss about, anyway? Read the offending passage. Another update, the staff strikes back.

Addendum: I'm a bad parent. I bought my 14 year old daughter a copy. She's reading it now.

Addendum: And the book is back on the shelves. Victory!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ride, Sally, Ride

THE THREE HOARSEMEN COMETH! Yes, folks, if you've met me here or on The Twitters and wonder if I sound as drunk and confused as I blog and tweet, now you can have audio proof. The latest episode of our podcast is up at SF Signal. And if that isn't enough here are our first, second and third previous episodes.

NEIGH! You can even get us via your favorite feed or iTunes. NEIGH!

Podcastus Interuptus

Alas, the smooth schedule we had with our first few episodes got bumped by the Demon Real Life. But we came back! Here we are again!

Arp Object

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us Arp 94 in the constellation of Leo. Arp objects are galaxies and other celestial objects that, in a nutshell, look odd. The reality of what is going on differs from the theories of Arp, but he is to be appreciated for trying to have a conversation.

Origin Story

Black Gate continues the dive down into the origins of various roleplaying games with this look at the fictional inspirations for Traveller.

New Who?

There have been several rumors this year that a massive trove of missing Doctor Who episodes have been uncovered. (Backstory: The BBC, never knowing about home video, DVD's, a massive fanbase and the like, destroyed many of the early episodes. However, on occasion, missing episodes turn up because they also sent copies out to other countries, and not all of the copies were returned.) Alas, most of these rumors have been squashed. Until now. This rumor is gathering a ring of truth with this story from the BBC itself. What might be in the treasure trove? A guide.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Misguided Anger

The "danger" of eBooks. Less a problem caused by eBooks than problems caused by the publishing industry (Charging more for a library and putting a limit on the number of times an eBook can be borrowed to simulate "wear"? Give me a break.)

The Notices Are In

As mentioned previously, The Wasp Factory by Iain (no M.) Banks has been made into an opera. Here are two reviews. Ouch.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is an "amateur" shot of Messier 52 in the constellation of Cassiopeia along with other structures in the area such as the Bubble Nebula. Gas and dust, sugar powder sprinklings of stars, contrasting black areas of apparent emptiness.

Monday, October 7, 2013

On Approach

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet ISON (C/2012 S1). Comet of the Century? Too soon to tell, but watch the skies!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Under Shimmering Skies

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows shimmering aurora under South Dakota skies.

VW Microbus

Say goodbye to the VW Microbus. I saw many of these camping over the years and even recently was stuck behind one in Princeton (California plates and it looked like it was a 1970's vintage model modified for living). Luckily, another camping icon from my youth is still around.


This style of map interests me (and several friends) thanks to their utility and their connections with science fiction and space travel (I kid you not). The map depicted in the link has a nice added level of utility.

Cup of Joe

The man who reinvented coffee. And didn't overburden it with doodads.

Addendum: The quest for a perfect cup continues. Found on this interesting blog.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Map is the Territory

A map showing all the buildings in the Netherlands, shaded as to when it was built. (And we're only scratching the surface of what be done with "big data".)

Progress. Or the Lack Thereof

I think I read a fair bit. I try to read at least sixty books a year and usually to better than that. How many books is that over a lifetime? Alas, a lot less than you might think, if you do the math.

Thicker Than Fleas

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a very large appearing galaxy, Messier 60 (or NGC 4649). At the approximate center of the picture is what appears to be a star but is actually a dwarf galaxy, one of the densest galaxies out there, M60-UCD1 (UCD = Ultra Compact Dwarf).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tick Tock

Pssst!!! Buddy!!! Got a spare $200,000? Want a watch? Ooops! Too late!

Rainbow Spectrum

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows all the colors of the spectrum of our home star, the Sun, old Sol.

(Today's APOD is courtesy of one of a number of "mirror sites" which are keeping the stars bright during the shutdown.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reading List

While we wait for the government to switch over to MacOS or Chrome or whatever they're doing, how about a little reading, courtesy of David Bowie?

Savory Cake

Ah, the joys of savory cake! And even instructions for one to follow to make such a delicacy. Oh look, a book about fine dining! The blog is saved!

Blogging Interrupted

Yep, interrupted. It appears that the government shutdown has also lead to a shutdown of most governmental websites (for some weird reason) and therefore access to many of the images I post have been cut off. It appears I will be restricted to blogging about pets, kids and fine dining.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Vela supernova remnant. Wisps of gas stretch across the sky.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Governmental Humor

In light of the pending governmental shutdown, it's nice to see some people still have a sense of humor. These signs were up at NASA's Wallops Island facility recently.

Big Freaking Rock

Full-on Vesta. Let's go back!

Clouding Over

This is pretty interesting. We've imaged clouds.

On another planet outside our solar system.

Java Jive

Could you handle fifty cups of coffee each day? That appears to be what Honore de Balzac needed to keep himself going.
Coffee is a great power in my life; I have observed its effects on an epic scale. Coffee roasts your insides. Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring. Think about it: although more grocery stores in Paris are staying open until midnight, few writers are actually becoming more spiritual.
More here.

Clear with a Chance of Showers

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing the Perseid Meteor Shower from Hopewell Rocks in Canada. Can you solve the mystery mentioned in the text?

Oblique Strategies

Waaaayyyy back at the dawn of time, I came across a copy of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategies on the shelf of a store in New Brunswick. I cannot recall whether it was one record store (Cheap Thrills) or another (Half Thoughts, which also was a wonderful used book store), but I picked it up (and still have it many years later. Has this tool (of sorts) for music crept into the world of politics?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Death Star Has Cleared the Planet

In this picture taken by the hard-working Cassini orbiter, Saturn's moon Dione appears to have been speared by a destructive ray emanating from Saturn.

Birth Pains

In this concept painting of Sgr A*, asteroids and comets stripped from their home systems orbit around that supermassive blackhole, awaiting their doom. One asteroid makes the final death spiral towards the blue event horizon.

185 A.D.

An image of what is (so far) the oldest recorded supernova (detected by Chinese astronomers in 185 A.D.).

Saturn Space

Rhea and Titan together, Titan almost ghostly in appearance. What mad solar system.

Old Moon in the Arms of the New

A glimpse of the thin crescent Moon from the International Space Station.


As Dawn makes it's way to Ceres (the next major stop), scientists are comparing their previous telescopically-gathered data vs. mission results.

Let's Go A Rovin'

The latest from Mars, specifically Curiosity (the Mars Science Laboratory). Der's water in dem dere hills! Bonus! A new selfie!

Pattern Recognition

Eddies and flows stand out sharply on this hypothetical hybrid wing craft being tested in a wind tunnel.

What Is Truth?

What is science fiction? Is that still a good label? Is sci-fi a better label? What about fantasticka? As a result of this posting at SF Signal by genre author David Barnett and a blog posting by genre author Linda Nagata, and then a long series of tweets by various guilty parties (raises hand for being one of them), a column by Roving Ace Reporter Damien Walter has resulted.

Addendum: One of the eyes of the storm.

Two Oceans

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the tiny smudge of the Andromeda Galaxy stretching over the Adriatic sea. One ocean at hand, one ocean almost unimaginably distant.

Final Approach

Six hours after launch, the Soyuz carrying Expedition 37 on their six-hour journey to the International Space Station, makes its final approach.


The Chandra X-Ray Observatory views dramatic changes in brightness of a neutron star, IGR J18245-2452, in Messier 28.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Paired Galaxies

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows two members of our Local Group, Messier 31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) and Messier 33 (the Triangulum Galaxy). I've only been lucky enough to spot Triangulum a few times (the Andromeda used to be an easy backyard naked eye target hereabouts, but no more).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

From Birth to Death

Star birth in far Centaurus A is seen in this image from the Hubble Space Telescope. In this image, the other end of a star's life: Eta Carinae, on the cusp of going supernova.


From the International Space Station, the eastern seaboard of the United States glows at night.

Helping Hands

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov reposition the Strela-1 crane on the International Space Station in preparation for new components. Interestingly, their Orlan spacesuits are equipped with NASA helmet cameras.


Apollo 9's Gumdrop (the Command Module) and Spider (the Lunar Module) meet in orbit during a test run.

Cosmic Vacuum

In this artist depiction, black hole IGR J17091-3624 siphons off lifeblood (gas) from its companion star.

John Glenn

From Friendship 7 to fifty years on. And, two crew members talk of memories on the flight deck of Space Shuttle Discovery.

Rocket Company

A view of the capsule and launch vehicle production lines at the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California. Busy!

Expedition 37

The crew of Expedition 37 at a press conference shortly before their launch. And, in this image, their launch vehicle leaps into the night skies on its six-hour jaunt to the International Space Station.


The images from multiple telescopes are combined to generate a view of M60-UCD1 (getting a hint of how many different astronomical catalogs there are out there?), an ultra-compact dwarf galaxy.


The Spitzer Space Telescope peers where we cannot see with our eyes and finds a jet coming off a young star, Herbig-Haro 34.

Barred Spiral

A barred spiral (a bar being a strong "structure" apparently across the spiral) in Doradus, NGC 1483.


The Hubble Space Telescope provides this view of the "young" (a mere few million years) star-forming regions in the 30 Doradus Nebula.

Cluster (No Eno)

Data from multiple ground- and space-based telescopes are combined in this image of Galaxy Cluster Abell 520. New structures bridging the abysses between the concentrations of stars appear.

81 vs. 82

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a image of galaxy-on-galaxy action. Messier 81 and Messier 82, both distorted by a encounter.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013