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.