Monday, November 30, 2015

Sunday, November 29, 2015

False Lichen

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a HiRISE image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showing streaks on sand dunes near the north pole of Mars. If you had no context, you might be forgiven for thinking this was some strange outbreak of lichen on patch of sandy soil.

The Final Problem

Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes, The Complete Novels and Short Stories, Volume 01 and Volume 02 (Bantam Classics, 2003, ASIN B000QCS8YM; cover uncredited).

I've read the Canon of Stories concerning the adventures of Sherlock Holmes (usually, but not always with his companion, Dr. John Watson) several times over the years: scattered short stories and novels when I was a child, end-to-end in college, end-to-end a few more times since then, most recently end-to-end in an annotated edition (see below).

This was the first time in several years, as I Had A Plan (also see below!). As such, I think my memories of the stories were distorted through the lens of several film and television adaptations of the stories (some more faithful than others!). I had forgotten, for example, that there were several stories written in a third voice (see The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone as an example), as if told directly by Sherlock Holmes himself (see The Adventure of the Lion's Mane as an example) or where Dr. Watson took a very active role in the story (see The Hound of the Baskervilles as an example). In fact, poor Dr. Watson! Forever ruined in our minds, I think, thanks to this depiction of his abilities!

I was even startled to re-discover the appearance of the famous hat and the famous phrase. For some reason I had it in my mind that both were inventions from the various adaptions. No, he didn't wear the hat every story and the phrase only appears once that I can now remember, but it was nice to come across both.

Overall feelings this time through? Doyle is a much better writer of short fiction than long fiction. Of the four novels, I think only The Hound of the Baskervilles really can stand up. The other three have too much exposition and backstory in them, cut all that out (as some adapted versions in other forums have done) and you have a much stronger tale.

Most of the stories are strong on their own and many are classics of the mystery genre. However, you can see when Doyle started to tire of his creation (read about The Final Problem and The Great Hiatus for more about that) and started to recycle or toss things together quickly: the later you go, overall, the weaker the tale. Was he the first to be plagued by a creation that the public loved and that the creator wished to be rid of?

You also can see a bit of careless repetition here and there, either from haste or forgetfulness. Unlike author's of today with computer tools or fans who develop "wikis" and the like, Doyle often re-used the damsel in distress, or (much to my amusement) the mysterious American more than a few times. Mysterious societies and strange ancestors, odd houses and lodgers and more make more than one appearance.

I think we can forgive him, that. For every reappearance of mysterious lodger we have gems like The Red-Headed League, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual, or the dynamic duo of The Final Problem and The Empty House!

Great stuff and these (and more) more than compensate for any "weakness" I noticed on the way through.

Holmes can be found, even today, in new stories. There are adaptions, with the Jeremy Brett version (still) my personal favorite. Holmes is everywhere, in New York, portrayed by Peter Cushing (with Christopher Lee co-starring), Tom Baker (did you know about that one?) and even wildly differently by both Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey, Jr. On the fictional front, there are even more stories, novels about Holmes, novels about Irene Adler and more. My favorites there are those written by film director and occasional novelist Nicholas Meyer (one of which was adapted to film).

Your Mileage May Vary on the pastiches, but it's a great way to get past the original stories (and who knows, maybe there's a Holmes story in you as well!).

Otherwise...I started re-reading the Canon of Stories in 2014, but did not get as far as originally intended.

The plan, as originally laid out, was I was going to read all the stories in this collection straight through. Then I was going to tackle the original annotated collection: William Baring-Gould's massive tome that was my first introduction to the concept of Sherlockian Studies. I had read this through a couple of decades ago.

Baring-Gould did a great job in annotating the Canon, but it seems to have fallen out of favor over the years. Some quibble with his ordering of the stories, some quibble with his scholarship. But it deserves a place as the first effort, if nothing else.

I haven't decided if I'm going to tackle these again. The problem is physical. These are massive volumes (especially if you don't have the two-volume version and only have the utterly astounding SINGLE volume). Not a book you can read in bed, at night; you'd be crushed if it slipped from your grasp! Maybe if I get my posterior in gear and finally clean sufficiently the computer/work/library room and have enough space on the desk to lay these out!

The next part of the plan was to re-read the second attempt at annotating the Canon. This was undertaken by Leslie S. Klinger, initially as paper volumes, now as eBooks (but I recommend purchasing both!): The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Volume 01); The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories: The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (Volume 02); The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Novels (Volume 03). Klinger has also annotated other works, such as Bram Stoker's Dracula and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. He is more than worth seeking out.

I'm definitely tackling the Klinger editions next, hopefully at a more measured pace than I did with the Bantam edition. I think that possibly part of my problem with the last stories was as much that Doyle was wearied of Holmes and I was wearied of the stories. There are some classic stories in the last collection, maybe I will appreciate them more if I pace myself!

Made up of: (2014 reads) Introduction; A Study in Scarlet; The Sign of Four; A Scandal in BohemiaThe Red-Headed LeagueA Case of IdentityThe Boscombe Valley MysteryThe Five Orange PipsThe Man with the Twisted LipThe Adventure of the Blue CarbuncleThe Adventure of the Speckled BandThe Adventure of the Engineer's ThumbThe Adventure of the Nobel BachelorThe Adventure of the Copper BeechesSilver BlazeThe Yellow FaceThe Stock-Broker's ClerkThe "Gloria Scott"The Musgrave RitualThe Reigate PuzzleThe Crooked ManThe Resident PatientThe Greek InterpreterThe Naval TreatyThe Final ProblemThe Adventure of the Empty HouseThe Adventure of the Norwood Builder; The Adventure of the Dancing MenThe Adventure of the Solitary CyclistThe Adventure of the Priory SchoolThe Adventure of Black PeterThe Adventure of Charles Augustus MilvertonThe Adventure of the Six Napoleons(2015 reads) The Adventure of the Three StudentsThe Adventure of the Golden Pince-NezThe Adventure of the Missing Three-QuarterThe Adventure of the Second StainThe Hound of the Baskervilles (novel); The Valley of Fear (novel); Preface to His Last BowThe Adventure of Wisteria LodgeThe Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott EcclesThe Tiger of San PedroThe Adventure of the Cardboard BoxThe Adventure of the Red CircleThe Adventure of the Bruce-Partington PlansThe Adventure of the Dying DetectiveThe Disappearance of Lady Frances CarfaxThe Adventure of the Devil's FootHis Last BowPreface to The Case-Book of Sherlock HolmesThe Adventure of the Illustrious ClientThe Adventure of the Blanched SoldierThe Adventure of the Mazarin StoneThe Adventure of the Three GablesThe Adventure of the Sussex VampireThe Adventure of the Three GarridebsThe Problem of Thor Bridge; The Adventure of the Creeping ManThe Adventure of the Lion's ManeThe Adventure of the Veiled LodgerThe Adventure of Shoscombe Old PlaceThe Adventure of the Retired Colourman (33 stories read in 2014, 30 stories in 2015, collection completed).

Caveat: As you'll see this book was listed as Volume 01 and Volume 02. However, when I purchased it, it was listed only as Volume 01. So, I purchased Volume 02.

However, if you don't study the thumbnail correctly, you'll miss that Volume 01 is actually Volume 01 and Volume 02. The whole enchilada. Everything is there! Don't buy Volume 02, unless you have absolutely been certain you're Volume 01 is Volume 01 and Volume 01 only! (The links provided are to the combined and separate volumes for your purchasing decisions.)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Freeze Frame

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another image from the incomparable Damian Peach showing Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, currently home for the Rosetta-Philae mission from the European Space Agency. The comet has "rounded the horn" and is on the way out from the innner system.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Eyes in the Sky

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a case of gravitational lensing leading to some anthropomorphism. Stacked data from multiple telescopes shows us a cosmic Cheshire Cat.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Spreading Conjunction

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the morning sky lineup of "morning stars". Jupiter, Mars and Venus are still "close" but are dancing further apart with each morning. "Mouseover" the image for a guide to what you're seeing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Terrain Features

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows ice pits on the surface of Pluto. Pluto: from planet of complete mystery to complex world of wonders, all in the time of a cosmic heartbeat.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

Beyond the Infinite

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as a "time grid".

And let us not forget the...REBOOT!

Deep, Rich Field

What do you get when you take an image of the constellation of Orion for 212 hours? Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day: This. Amazing. Picture. ("Mouseover" the image for a guide to the stars and other objects.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Moon of Doom

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Phobos, the doomed moon of Mars. Tidal forces are working their way on Phobos, so look quick! It won't always be there!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Collection Day

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a cosmic recycling center, NGC 5291, disrupted in a cosmic collision, now spawning dwarf galaxies filled with rich star-spawning regions.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Arcs and Lines

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows falling Leonids in the skies of Ontario. Can you see the faint arcs of the nebula in the constellation of Orion?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dust Never Sleeps

The amusing story of filters, bags and the micro-environment of the International Space Station. Amusing, but important for long-term space travel/habitation.


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Centaurus A, the closest active galaxy to our home spiral. No place to linger.

Thoughts. We Have Them.

The latest from The Three Hoarsemen! Host-only this month, due to scheduling issues with our guest but we'll have him back as soon as we can! (You'll note that I'm somewhat sparse in talking about what I've read as most of it was related to that guest.)

Have You Ever Noticed...

...that people never try to save the classics until it is too late? Of course, we might point out that they probably didn't have the same warm fuzzies about these locations when they were at their "most classic" (most rundown, etc.).

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

An Odd Bird

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day takes us deep into the constellation of Cygnus. Here we find IC 5070 and IC 5067, the Pelican Nebula (right near the more famous NGC 7000, the North American Nebula).

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terrain Mix

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the "provisionally-named" Wright Mons, a potential cryo-volcano made of ice on the "dwarf" planet Pluto.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Birth of the Cosmic Frogs

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows detail within the constellation of Auriga, specifically IC 410 and NGC 1893. If you ever wondered where the cosmic frogs are born, we have the answer.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Falling Bull

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a Taurid streaking across the skies of Kenya, passing near the Moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Flame On!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day takes us to the constellation of Aurigae and the Flaming Star Nebula. Another great sight for low power/wide field of view telescopes if you have nice dark skies.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing the assembly, over the past fifteen years, of the International Space Station.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Quad Quads

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows quads on the ground and quads in the sky in 2005. If you were up early enough, you saw one set of quads in the sky last week. This week, we still have three out of four of the participants: Mars, Venus and Jupiter. Over the past three or four weeks, if you had been paying attention, you would have been treated to a nice "dance of the planets" as planets moved "close" (apparently) to each other and then moved "rapidly" (apparently) apart.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Two Arches

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a spectacular view from the 15-year-old International Space Station: Above, the Earth. Center, the Milky Way. Below, the ISS.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Winding Down

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 3169 and NGC 3166 in the constellation of Sextans (the sextant). The pair of galaxies are interacting, and NGC 3169 seems to be having a poorer time for that interaction.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Birthing Chamber

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 1333 (in the constellation of Perseus), a stellar nursery well-positioned for Autumn viewing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tinker Toy

A collection of images showing how the International Space Station has grown and changed in 15 years of continuous occupation and operation.

Fall and Winter Wonder

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautifully-detailed look at Messier 42, The Great Nebula of Orion. Worth viewing with binoculars or telescopes (relatively low-power, wide field-of-view is best, better if you use "emission filters"), the Orion Nebula is coming into great position for viewing during the evening.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Monday, November 2, 2015

Breaking Up

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short film showing the breakup of Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). Filmed by the hard-working SOHO observatory, in operation since 1995 (!).

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Arches and Buttes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day has the buttes of Monument Valley supporting the arch of the Milky Way. "Mouseover" the image (in the link!) to get a guide to both the sky and ground.