Friday, February 28, 2014


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us strange rock formations under the light of a nearly full Moon in the Sierra Nevada range.

Southern Reach

The first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's new Southern Reach trilogy, Annihilation, has hit the shelves and is creating a substantial amount of "buzz". Here's a few things to explore: A "training and recruitment" website for the Agency that is investigating the phenomena and a talk with Jeff VanderMeer from the folks at Arcfinity (a great online/electronic magazine).

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Upabove Downunder

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows auroral activity over the skies of New Zealand. It's the year of the quiet sun!


Nominees for the 2014 Nebula Award (to be awarded in 2014) have been announced. Good list, but (as usual), I have only scratched the surface. So many books, so little time, so many ex-lover's to bury. Conga-rats to online friend and long-time gaming author Chuck Gannon!

Cooking with Gas

A collection of recipes inspired by Jane Austen. I should pair this up with my Sherlock Holmes and Aubrey-Maturin cookbooks.


A poster containing 80+ Cantonese proverbs. A helpful translation guide is being built.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reading Plan

You know, this list of books you should read is probably the best one out there.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a deep look at the Seven Sisters, Messier 45, in the constellation of Taurus.
Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid.
(Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Locksley Hall)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fishing Net

How can one catch a disabled satellite? Other than sending up the Toy Box, as it were. How about with a net?

Why do we need to do this? Didn't you see Gravity? Or better yet, don't you know about the Kessler Effect?


The crescent Moon rises above the thin skin of our atmosphere.

Fleeing the Core

What's not known about this picture of a "runaway star" speeding through the interstellar medium (and causing shockwaves) is that this (and the others) are inhabited systems fleeing the really big supernova at the center of our galaxy...

...just kidding...

...or maybe not...

Addendum (March 5, 2014): How fast is that star? Maybe not as fast as first announced!

Hidden Twin

Mariner 10 snaps a close-up of our our twin planet, Venus.


The Kepler Space Telescope has found a planet that would make Hal Clement coo with anticipation.

Wingtip to Wingtip

Martian dunes "flying" in "formation". Which way are the prevailing winds?

25 Classics

Lots of reading in the feed today! Here, Business Insider and The New York Public Library look at 25 classic American books.

Haute Cuisine

Military rations around the world. Interesting to see the mix of "commercial product" vs. drab packages. What, no dreaded pork patty?

One Infinite Loop

Vikram Chandra picks his top ten computer books. Don't be afraid, some good stuff here for the general reader of non-fiction.

Active Region

Our quiet Sun, courtesy of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Top 100

David Bowie picks his top one-hundred books.

Introducing "Chip"

An attempt to introduce (well, summarize) Samuel R. Delany. Good luck with that.

Flow Go the Engines

NCC 1701/D idles its engines. For twenty-four hours.

Crossing the Plane

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us what the long-working Cassini orbiter saw when it crossed the plane of Saturn's rings in 2005.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Swarming Season

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier Object 44, the "Beehive Cluster" in the constellation of Hyades. This is best viewed at low magnification and a wide field of view (i.e., with binoculars).

Friday, February 21, 2014

Interstellar Medium

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows The Lighthouse Nebula, a jet of matter spiraling out from the remnant of a supernova for a distance of nearly 37 light-years.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

No Lawsuit This Time

J. Michael Straczynski has optioned Harlan Ellison's short story Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktock Man. Readers may recall that Ellison implied a certain resemblance between his story and a relatively recent science fiction film. At least this time there will be no lawsuit.

Cranky Old Men on a Cranky Old Man

The Three Hoarsemen mount their Rascals and tackle Warren Ellis. As a mostly non-reader in the graphic field, I am the test subject here.

The 13th Valley

Author (and veteran) John M. Del Vecchio on writing about the Vietnam War. His The 13th Valley is an excellent read.

Love Over the Wall

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet Lovejoy (C/2013 R1) over the Great Wall of China.

Pardon Me, Boys...

Perhaps this is a way to save the rail system of the United States of America? Well, this and free housing for writers in Detroit?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Tracks of My Gears

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the tracks left by MSL Curiosity as it crossed through Dingo Gap on the way to (so-called) Mount Sharp.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Inside the Eagle

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier 16 in the constellation of Serpens. Known as the Eagle Nebula, it has even starred in movies. Can you spot the so-called "Pillars of Creation"?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Doctor Who: An American Tale

What if Doctor Who had been a long-running American show?


Shooting an album cover. One of my all-time favorite discs.


I have two editions of the bottom title and (I think) at least one other.

Sip Stealing

So much better than Coca-Cola's insipid "sip-stealing" campaign. Stop stealing Criterion covers!

Growth Curve

Apparently Godzilla, like everything else, is subject to inflation.

Addendum: Behind the scenes. Family gathering. Internal structure.


Tarkovsky and Kurosawa went into a bar one day...

Addendum: Behind the scenes.

Blade Runner

Philip K. Dick reacts to Blade Runner. It is a shame he didn't see what it became, say, ten years after the release.

Shouldn't This be a Thursday Picture?

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 2359 in the constellation of Canis Major. It is more popularly known as Thor's Helmet. A Thorsday picture!


A believer and a non-believer sit down and talk. If only more people were like this (or more politicians).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"I heard you were dead!"

Kurt Russell and John Carpenter. A great big campy mix!

Heart and Soul

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice deep look at the Heart and Soul Nebula (IC 1805) in the constellation of Cassiopeia (courtesy of the efforts of Leonardo Orazi). And people say the winter skies are dull!

Monday, February 10, 2014


Solar arrays on the Russian segment of the International Space Station. It's really a wonder to see the ISS overhead, growing brighter and darker with the wings catching the light. The best was one time when the orientation changed so that the wings changed color from a dull orange to a hot white to a dull orange again.

Free Falling

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video of a publicity stunt for a energy drink.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Examined Life

Nearly fifty-five years on and it took this long to find something that makes clear why I am (in spite of many things that make me go ballistic) still Catholic. Thank you, Pray As You Go.

Galaxy Field

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day brings us the work of Martin Pugh and shows us the region around NGC 5101 in the constellation of Hydra.

Not an Exit

There may not be an exit in that direction, but there are an infinity of worlds to explore on the path to that door.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mapping the World

How should we map the universe? Or even our own galaxy? An interesting look.

Voyage to Far Centaurus

The Chandra X-Ray Space Telescope takes a look at Centaurus A. Nine days of observing time have been combined into a new view.

(In)Clement Weather

The Kepler Space Telescope has found a very wobbly planet. It puts me in mind of the works of Hal Clement or Poul Anderson.

Roll on Through the Gap

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity spent some time eyeing a gap as a possible course to a new area to explore...and has (apparently) rolled through successfully. It also spent some time doing astronomy, spotting a small blue dot in the sky (larger view here).

Addendum: Before traveling through the gap.


Get a B.A. in one year at home? I sometimes think if I can develop my own Ph.D. program at home (mostly for self-satisfaction as well as self-education).

Night Flows the Universe

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows dynamic cloud formations and serene stars and nebulae over the night skies of Kenya.


Amazon announces 100 books for a lifetime. I believe I have surpassed that number on my own list looooonnngggg ago.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Less Than A Geological Era

I saw the news that a "recent" crater had been spotted on Mars. I approached the news with caution, as geologists will use "recent" on a different scale than you or I. In this case "recent" is a very accurate description of the age of this crater. Sometime between 2010 and 2012 a rock went splat on Mars.

Internet Time

Hell hath no fury like a town/culture/person/group "insulted" by an author.

Culture Clash

While I do not often go to my town library to borrow books, I have donated more than a few tomes. I grew up living off the library, both in Teaneck, New Jersey and in Kinnelon, New Jersey. Instead of going to "home room" in high school, I volunteered in the school library during that period.

Libraries are the sign of an advancing culture. When you cut out funding to libraries, you cut out the soul (and the potentially positive future) of that culture.

A sign of an advancing culture is the libraries it funds. How do yours look?

Functional Key

I have ordered a Google Chromebook (not made by Google, but...) in order to act as a stand-in for our laptop workhorse (needs to go to the shop) and as a third computer for the house for those days when we need one (happens more than I expected!). I did so partly on the recommendation of online friend Jamie Todd Rubin. In that link he talks about using Mathematica, from Wolfram Alpha. His language was much more restrained than the review of Wolfram Alpha found within this carefully crafted link.

Old School

The working tools of various author types. Not listed is Harlan Ellison's (with additional information here).

Whole Earth Catalog

The global weather system, seen as a near whole.


M. John Harrison and the word "universe".

It's All Marketing

What if the marketing department of publishing houses were allowed to rename the classics?

Layers Upon Layers

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the sky over the Yunnan Providence in China. Layers of terraces, layers of airglow and layers of stars.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Heroic Miniatures

A look behind the scenes of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

Voynich Decoded (Not Quite Yet...But...)

An interesting look at what might be a breakthrough into translating the mysterious Voynich Manuscript.


A point-by-point examination of the latest version of the Timelord known as "Doctor Who".


It's such a shame the "Tea with Moriarty" television talk show never flew.

Not a Puppy Cam

How far has film technology come? Take a look at an early version of the "helmet cam".

Knife Edge

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 2683 in the constellation of Lynx. A beautiful spiral, seen from the edges!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Continuing with Saturn-space, here's a look at the odd feature to be found around the northern polar area.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a particle beam forming a jet inside of Herbig-Haro Object 24. The amount of detail we can see across interstellar distances just boggles my mind.

Exit Strategies

Exit Strategies is a new(ish) electronic magazine for (ahem) speculative fiction. Their "Tumblr" has been covering the late late Iain M. Banks recently, with one article by Hannu Rajaniemi about the future of books via Banks and one article by Adam Roberts on Banks himself.

Going Up

William Forstchen talks about space elevators, a core concept for his forthcoming book Pillar to the Sky. He mentions Arthur C. Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise as being one book built around the concept. I'd also point you towards Charles Sheffield and The Web Between the Worlds, which came out at almost the same time as Clarke's work.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Big Suck

Nothing ever happens in the universe. Nothing ever changes. Nothing.


After my recent post linking to an in-depth look at the typography of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I've come across a few other mentions of the movie. Here's a look at the comic version. Yes, there was a comic version. It was pretty faithful when they covered the movie, but the train left the station for Crazytown when they tried to extend the story. Jeff Patterson, one of the hosts on The Three Hoarsemen podcast (you are listening, right?) reworks the original movie. That put me in mind for the trailer which looks at how the movie might be marketed if it were released today. Michael Bay does 2001. God, give me strength.

Addendum: Winchell Chung pointed me towards this earlier graphic rendition of the film. (Now I need to find the Mad Magazine version as well!)

Addendum: The NASA Featured Image for February 7 is Robert McCall's painting of the double-wheeled space station and Orion shuttle from the movie.

Ten Years On

And in case I haven't said it recently: We recently passed ten years of continuous operations on the ground of Mars. Pretty good return for a ninety-day mission.

Where Angels Park Their Halos

I will never tire of Saturn, either through my telescope or in pictures, such as this (from the hard-working Cassini orbiter, long may it operate!).


NASA recently launched the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-L), the second of three new orbiters designed to communicate with the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and other vehicles. Here's the launch vehicle on the pad and here's the night launch.

Off to a Comet

The ESA's Rosetta probe has been wakened and is preparing for an encounter with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?). Here's a view of the probe before launch, when it was undergoing testing on Earth.

Lunar Transit

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observes our dynamic (get it) Sun. Occasionally it also observes a transit or even an eclipse, such as this recent passage of our Moon.

Duo in Uno

Nice edition of Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Anasi Boys under one cover.


Do not click on the link if you don't want the second season of Hannibal ruined for you. Spoilers, sweetie.


What is the hidden message hidden in the credits of Sherlock?


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a panoramic shot from our nearest neighbor, courtesy of China's (alas, no longer operating) rover, Yutu rover and Chang'e 3 Lander.

Tumbling Dice

Meanwhile, the Solar System just keeps getting on and on.


You never know who you'll run into while waiting for the cat bus.

Oil and Water

You generally should not stick a spoon into a cup of coffee and expect it to stand up straight, but the other end of the spectrum is, in many way, much worse.

Look. Smell. Listen.

If only more people would open their eyes.


Four to eight inches of wet heavy snow expected today. Will this happen to me?

Work Process

Richard Kadrey quotes Tara Moss. BICHOK.

The Examined Life

Should this apply to politicians, sports "professionals", actors, etc., as well?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Stories of Your Life

An interview with Ted Chiang, author of many extraordinary short works.


An in-depth look of the typography of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Current Reads (February 2, 2014)

O.K., so where do we stand in my current (as usual) fractured reading lists?

Stephen Baxter (electronic) (fiction): Vacuum Diagrams.

James Blish (electronic) (fiction): Cities in Flight.

Ben Bova (electronic) (fiction): As on a Darkling Plain. The Towers of Titan and Other Stories. The Sam Gunn Omnibus. Powersat.

Jorge Luis Borges (paper) (fiction): Collected Fictions.

David Brin (electronic and audio) (fiction): Existence.

Terry Brooks (electronic) (fiction): The Sword of Shannara Trilogy.

Eric Brown (electronic) (fiction): Necropath.

John Brunner (electronic) (fiction): The Squares of the City. Stand on Zanzibar.

Philip Caputo (electronic and audio) (re-read) (non-fiction): A Rumor of War. Means of Escape.

Gail Carriger (electronic) (fiction): The Parasol Protectorate (omnibus).

G.K. Chesterton (electronic) (fiction): The Complete Father Brown Mysteries.

Arthur C. Clarke (electronic) (fiction): Prelude to Space.

James S.A. Corey (electronic) (fiction): Leviathan Wakes.

Leonardo da Vinci (electronic) (art): Notebooks.

Samuel R. Delany (electronic) (non-fiction): On Writing.

John M. Del Vecchio (electronic) (fiction): The 13th Valley.

Arthur Conan Doyle (electronic) (fiction) (short stories): Sherlock Holmes (multiple volumes).

Guy Consolmagno (electronic) (non-fiction): God's Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Makes Sense of Religion.

Will Durant (electronic and audio) (non-fiction): Our Oriental Heritage.

Paul Elie (electronic) (non-fiction): Reinventing Bach.

Warren Ellis (and Divers Hands) (paper) (art): Anna Mercury. Ignition City. Ministry of Space. Ocean.

Steven Erickson (electronic) (fiction): The Malazan Empire.

Bernard B. Fall (electronic) (non-fiction): Street Without Joy.

Matt Fraction (and Divers Hands) (paper) (art): Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon.

Carl Freedman (electronic) (non-fiction): Critical Theory and Science Fiction.

Gary Gibson (electronic) (fiction): Stealing Light.

Mike Guardia (electronic) (non-fiction): Hal Moore: A Soldier Once...and Always.

Debra Hamel (electronic) (non-fiction): Reading Herodotus.

Colonel Thomas X. Hammes (USMC) (electronic) (non-fiction): The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century.

Thor Heyerdahl (electronic) (non-fiction): Kon-Tiki.

James Hilton (electronic) (fiction): Lost Horizon.

Douglas Hofstadter (paper) (non-fiction): Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

Homer (translated by Robert Fagles) (paper and electronic) (poetry): The Iliad.

Donald Kagan (electronic, paper and audio) (non-fiction): The Peloponnesian War.

John Keegan (electronic) (non-fiction): Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America.

Stephen King (electronic) (non-fiction): Danse Macabre. On Writing.

Jacqueline Koyanagi (electronic) (fiction): Ascension.

Anne Leckie: (electronic and audio) (fiction): Ancillary Justice.

Stanislaw Lem: (electronic and audio) (fiction and non-fiction)): Solaris. Summa Technologiae (Electronic Meditations)

George R. R. Martin (electronic) (fiction): Dying of the Light.

Tim Maughan (electronic) (fiction): Paintwork

Julian May (electronic) (fiction): The Many-Colored Land.

Paul McAuley (electronic) (fiction): 400 Billion Stars.

David McCullough (electronic) (non-fiction): 1776. Truman.

Helen Merrick (electronic) (non-fiction): The Secret Feminist Cabel.

Ryu Mitsuse (electronic) (non-fiction): Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights.

C.L. Moore (paper and electronic) (fiction) (short stories): Northwest of Earth and Northwest Smith.

Chris Moriarty (electronic) (fiction): Spin State.

Anka Muhlstein (electronic) (non-fiction): Monsieur Proust's Library.

James Stuart Olson and Randy W. Roberts (electronic and paper) (non-fiction): When the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam, 1945-2010.

Andrew X. Pham: Catfish and Mandala (electronic) (non-fiction): A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam.

Terry Pratchett (electronic) (fiction): Snuff.

Marcel Proust (electronic) (fiction): In Search of Lost Time (omnibus).

Thomas Pynchon (electronic and audio) (fiction): The Crying of Lot 49. Gravity's Rainbow.

Alastair Reynolds (electronic) (fiction): Blue Remembered Earth.

Ronald Rolheiser (electronic) (non-fiction): Our One Great Act of Fidelity.

Nate Silver (electronic) (non-fiction): The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don't.

Iain Sinclair (paper) (non-fiction): Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire.

Clark Ashton Smith (paper, electronic and audio) (fiction) (short stories): The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith (six volumes).

Jad Smith (electronic) (non-fiction): John Brunner.

Ewen Southy-Tailyour (electronic) (non-fiction): 3 Commando: Helmand Assault.

Tom Standage (electronic) (non-fiction): Writing on the Wall: Social Media—The First 2,000 Years.

Jonathan Strahan (editor) (electronic) (fcition) (short stories): The Starry Rift. Engineering Infinity. Edge of Infinity.

Howard Tayler (electronic) (fiction): Extraordinary Zoology.

Paul Theroux: The Tao of Travel (electronic) (non-fiction): Enlightenments from Lives on the Road.

Thucydides (electronic and paper) (non-fiction): The Landmark Thucydides.

E.C. Tubb (electronic) (fiction): The Winds of Gath.

Barbara Tuchman (paper, electronic and audio) (non-fiction): The Guns of August.

Sun Tzu (audio) (non-fiction): The Art of War.

Robert van Gulick (electronic) (fiction): The Haunted Monastery.

Various (electronic) (fiction): The Arabian Nights.

Various (paper and electronic) (philosophy): The Bible.

Vernor Vinge (electronic and audio) (fiction): Rainbows End.

Jo Walton (electronic) (non-fiction): What Makes This Book So Great.

David Weber (audio and electronic) (fiction): War of Honor (Honor Harrington 10).

Gene Wolfe (electronic and paper) (fiction): Peace.

Perez Zagorin (electronic) (non-fiction): Thucydides: An Introduction.

Valley of Mars

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Death Valley and a night sky dominated by Orion and Mars. See what you miss under those streetlights!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

2014: January Readings

So, back at it after the end of 2013. How does January stack up? I have (as in the past) set a goal of trying to read one short work per day and ended the month at 46 out of 365. Ahead there! As for books, I have completed reading only four books for the year-to-date, but (as usual) I am reading many more than four books simultaneously so those numbers will start to add up as I finish some of those.



I remember watching this unfold eleven years ago.


February begins! Ansible drops! All hail Dave Langford!

IAIN BANK's Consider Phlebas has a new German edition from Heyne, translated "Aus dem Amerikanischen" ("From the American"). [DH]

GEORGE ORWELL must be rotating in his grave after the announcement that the 1956 film of 1984 is being remade as Equals, described as a "futuristic love story". Kristen Stewart, playing the female lead, breathlessly comments: "It's a love story of epic, epic, epic proportion...I'm scared." Is it she rather than the hapless Winston who at the end will really, really, really love Big Brother? (US Weekly, 24 January) [LP]
Check it out.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the subtle interplay of light and dust within NGC 6188 and NGC 6163 in the constellation of Ara.

Sam I Am

Neil Gaiman reads Dr. Seuss. Is it just me or is there an air of Stockholm Syndrome about his visage?


John Coulthart covers the covers used for M. John Harrison's Viriconium stories. I never knew that Ian Miller (one of my favorite artists) did art for the tales!

Addendum: M. John Harrison responds to a reader's question about the series.