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.