Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cover Story

On the front page of the newest The New York Times Sunday Book Review: a book about crime in Ireland.

Set forty years from now...so...does that make it science (cough cough, "speculative", cough cough) fiction? Will the review even mention the subject?
City of Light

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a shot at night from the City of Light.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Muji

Posted by William Gibson on Twitter. Nifty stuff.

That reminds me...I should head up to Ikea one of these days...
Sacrifice

It is astonishing how people continuine to focus on the negative news about the military, but never seem to mention things like this. Is the media still stuck in Vietnam mode?

I do know that Good Morning America has already spent quite a bit of airtime on the Bales’ case, from his financial past, to his injuries, to more unfounded speculation about his mental health. Over several days.

Weichel? 34. Seconds.

Toward the beginning of the clip, the phrase: "Now a story of uncommon sacrifice."

Uncommon.

As if this sort of selfless act is somehow...unusual.
Commentary

Kurt Vonnegut fights back against stupidity. Alas, the fight still goes on.
Boo!

Amusing. Why ghosts haunt houses.
Starlight and Sunset

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful post-sunset view from the Grand Canyon. Two planets, one moon, stars and sun glow.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Galactica

Proving once again, you can build anything with enough Lego bricks: The Galactica ships!
Leaping Rockets!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the trails of the recent multi-rocket ATREX launch against the Milky Way.
Old Uses for New Tech

"So, Dad, how's that iPad we bought you?"

Dialogue is in German, but you'll figure it out...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Clarke Award

Did somebody get out of the wrong side of the bed today? Christopher Priest is less-than-kind towards those nominated for the Clarke Award. Wow.

Addendum: Reaction by Damien G. Walter. Reaction by John Scalzi (More reaction from John Scalzi). Catherynne Valente comments. Jeff VanderMeer responds. CHARLES STROSS IS AN INTERNET PUPPY. More from THE INTERNET PUPPY. Commentary by Ian sales here (money quote: "...and even people in the US have actually heard of it...") The Guardian posts an article (and commentators mostly concentrate on one author rather than the list or the Priest-ly posting). Commentary from Forbidden Planet (store). Commentary from Cleolinda Jones. Cora Buhlert on the events. Neil Williamson wants to be entertained (as do I!). Nina Allen comments. File 770 comments. James Nicoll comments. Comments by Jim C. Hines (amusing stuff).
Tweet Stream

Amusing exchange of twitterage between two stars of the Star Trek franchise.
Fishing Expedition

Jeff Bezos wants to salvage Apollo 11's first stage engines and put them in a museum. Wow.
Climbing Walls

Classic stuff from the classic Batman television series. Climbing walls. All of them.
The Tall One Wears a Little Hat

Diving and fashion. Why do they all wear those little hats?
Pirates of Venus

John Carter is not the only Burroughs property that is slated for the big screen. But will the troubles (real or generated by the studio) of that property help or hurt this property?

(It has been in development heck for a very long time.)
It's Raining Men

What's happening around Enceladus? Here's some interesting possibilities.

Science Fiction writers: GET CRACKING.
Alignment

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is another shot of the planetary dance that has been gracing our skies. Hope you all have seen it (and don't forget Mars!).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hollows

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a image from MESSENGER of some unusual features on Mercury. These appears to be unique (so far!) to Mercury itself. What caused these features to form! SF writers...get cracking!

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012: War and Rumors of War

I got started reading (or rather, finishing what I had started) military history this year and ended up finishing two books shortly one after the other in March. Looking at the bookshelves, as usual, these shouldn't be the only ones I read this year.

Dick Camp: The Devil Dogs at Belleau Wood: U.S. Marines in World War I (Zenith Press; 2008; ASIN B004NNUWUS; cover art, historical photograph). Looks in detail at the training the USMC received ahead of their involvement in WWI and in particular their fighting in and around the area known as Belleau Wood. Of particular interest is how training and bravery overcame the difficulties of fighting in wooded/hilly/rocky terrain plus the outmoded means of fighting vs. the massed firing of interlocking machineguns (old tactics vs. new). Hopefully Camp will visit some of the other campaigns he mentions in the book that the veterans (who helped the novices) in various units participated in. Recommended.

Bernard Cornwall: Sharpe's Rifles (Penguin Books; 2001; ASIN B000RAK4U4; cover art, not indicated). I first picked up this series when I was in the Army as several other people in my unit were reading them. I've come back to them and have found a greater level of enjoyment than the first run through as I've read several histories of the era, as well as another series set in the era (Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series). Cornwall sets this entry in the series in the Spanish countryside and some key cities, in between actual historical events. There's a lot of nice stuff in here about an officer who has come up from the ranks (Sharpe), thrown into an adverse situation and how he relates to the men under his command. Toss in some romance, multiple instances of dire straits, and you've got a great read. Not the "first" in the series (despite the number in the description) either written or in the overall historical chronology, but what I also like about these books is that they work very independently.

Doyle D. Glass: Lions of Medina: The Marines of Charlie Company and Their Brotherhood of Valor (NAL Caliber; 2008; ISBN 978-0-451-22408-8; cover, historical photograph). Covers an early battle between a company of U.S. Marines and the NVA during the initial phases of US buildup in Vietnam. If you want a quick-adn-dirty comparison, thinks "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young for Marines". Very moving in places and some of the combat sequences will raise the hair on your head. Hollywood, where are you? This would have been a much better subject for a film than Full Metal Jacket!

Philip Keith: Blackhorse Riders (St. Martin's Press; 2012; ISBN 978-0-312-68192-0; cover, historical photograph). This book covers the actions of a combined cavalry troop—"leg" infantry company in going to rescue another infantry company that walked into a highly-defended enemy encampment during the Vietnam War. The incident was, through various circumstances, overlooked in the overall history of the war until members of the cavalry troop started bringing it to official attention. A gripping story and one that needed to be told a lot earlier than this!

Kevin Mervin: Weekend Warrior: A Territorial Soldier's War in Iraq (Mainstream Publishing; 2005; ISBN 978-1840189742; cover, author photograph). I picked this one up (as an eBook) as it covered something I did not even know existed: the Territorial Army in the United Kingdom. I had spent 12 years as a reservist in the U.S. Army and did not know that the UK had the equivalent. Mervin talks about his experiences in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and the British efforts in and around Basara. There's a good mix of humor (just how many times can one man eat pasta and meatballs for breakfast?), action and suspense (see how Iraq was invaded—by a pair of mechanics—ahead of schedule!) as well as the grimmer side of war: a number of grim tales here about how the citizens of Iraq broke down into tribe-on-tribe fighting. Mervin survives Iraq only to be mistreated at home: he is called a baby killer (sound familiar?), loses his job due to his Territorial Army commitment (so much for the patriotism and support of one's employer!) and eventually has to leave the TA in order to keep a job. Published in 2005, and of a "ground level" view, it (necessarily) does not cover what happened later in Iraq, but it is a fine read from a point of things I do not often encounter.

Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer: No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy Seal—The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden (Dutton; 2012; ASIN B008MG1E4A; cover art, historical photograph). Ahead of the controversy which seems to have been attached to this book, I wanted to read it to learn more of the SEALS and of, in particular, the mission that finally "got" Osama Bin Laden. Having read the book, I wonder if many of those who are criticizing it and complaining about the author have actually read it. I find, for example, no boasting here. I find a quiet, careful, thoughtful narrative who emphasizes the positives of training and focus and the bravery and sacrifice of those in the unit (not just him, not any way close—the praise is heaped more on the others!). I was not startled by any "secrets" (it seems that the reaction, to me, from official circles is more of fear of embarassment—not because those circles did anything wrong, but from foot-dragging, mission creep and the desire to stick an oar in where it might do more wrong than good). I don't even find anything overtly political (towards or against either side of the aisle). We need to celebrate our victories, to praise those who sacrifice, this book does both. A fast read and I've already loaned my copy out (I have both the paper and electronic versions) three times. Highly recommended.

Lewis Sorley: A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam (Harvest/Harcourt; 1999; ISBN 978-0-15-601309-3; cover, historical photograph). Sorley looks at the involvement of Creighton Abrams in the Vietnam War and how he (and a few other key people) changed the direction of that war. Some historians have taken Sorley to task for "revising" history, but it is possible that the filters used to this point have been pointed too far to the left, if you get my drift. This book was influential in the "surge" strategy first used in Iraq (and later in Afghanistan).
Star Trek Continues

Huh. I wonder what this is all about?
Turbulence

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows M82, the "Cigar Galaxy". Stirred up by a "recent" pass of M81, this galaxy in Ursa Major shows additional signs of disturbance. The winds between the stars and galaxies!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Spiral Walks Into a Bar

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice example of a barred spiral galaxy, NGC 1300, in the constellation of Eridanus.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Breaking News

The Village Voice learns of the shocking...shocking...connection between the Writers of the Future and Scientology.

Dudes. Where have you been for the past couple of decades?
The Prestigious Delmont-Ross Writing Contest

Brilliance from A.C. Crispin. And hilarity. Score one for the good guys.
Habitat Hires

Bigelow Aerospace is hiring again. End of the slowdown?
Variation

No Godel, no Escher, but plenty of Bach's Goldberg Variations. NPR spends a week looking at JSB's Goldberg Variations from all directions.
Hunger Games

For some reason, I'm getting hungry. Can't imagine why. I really can't.
Katy Perry

I have no idea who Katy Perry is. But in terms of society at large, it is interesting to see something like this come out so "late in the game" when allegedly our society has become anti-military (or so various media pundits keep telling me).

And that whole "women should not be in combat" thing? Too late folks. Not when you start seeing stuff like this.
John Carter

This should have been the trailer for John Carter. Amazing how fans are in better touch than marketing "experts".
Close to the Sun

Interesting news from Mercury, courtesy of MESSENGER. Results roll in and science fiction authors celebrate the (re)birth of a setting.

The temperatures right at the surface in these dark spots are actually too hot for water ice to be stable at the surface. However, dig 10 or 20 centimeters down, and you get to a region where the temperature is around 100 Kelvin, and ice is stable. The conclusion from all of this: the permanently shadowed craters do contain water ice, but it's not right at the surface; it's sequestered about 10 or 20 centimeters below the surface. What's at the surface, then? It's some dark material that is stable at 170 Kelvin. There are several different things this could be, but Dave said they were favoring the hypothesis that the dark stuff is complex organic compounds like those found in carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. These compounds would be volatile elsewhere on Mercury—that is, they're not stable as solids, but rather as gases—but would get trapped in cold, permanently shadowed areas just the same way that water ice would, at rather higher temperatures. So: there's water ice at Mercury's poles, capped with a layer of carbon-rich material. Dave pointed out that this makes the permanently shadowed areas near Mercury's poles surprisingly habitable. Dig a very short distance below the surface and you have comfortable temperatures as well as access to water and organic material.


Get plotting, folks!
300,000 Jewels

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful Hubble shot of Messier Object 9, a nice globular cluster in the constellation of Ophiuchus.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mysterious Mercury

Water on the hottest planet? Stay tuned...
Funny Money

Putting aside that we don't know whether the sales figures reported here are gross or net, let's do the math...

$100 million to make the movie (I wonder how much the original cost? Or the whole trilogy of original movies?)

"Returns" of $231 million.

Results in "...wasn't enough to turn a profit..."
Landforms

A new kind of landform on Mars? Cool!
Endorsement?

This sentence caught my eye:

Not long ago, I was in a café where three out of the dozen patrons all had identical hardcovers, with the same blank stare gazing upwards from their dense pages.

I've not read the book that is being discussed. But is that a enthusiastic bit of praise? Or a subtle backhanded putdown? Or?

Weird.
Long View

Building a monastery the old fashioned way. Not even coffee. NO COFFEE????
Fast Mover

Did anybody get the license of that planet?
London Calling

What social networking in Merry Olde London was like: the coffeehouse as a hotbed of social discourse. Nowadays, you don't fool anyone when you in a coffee shop with your laptop.
Annotations

How monks copying texts would illustrate and comment about life while doing their work.
Working in the Coalmine

An online conversation about data leads to this article. How much self-data mining/collection do you do? Are you as organized as Stephen Wolfram?
Dust Never Sleeps

Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity takes a self-portrait and shows what has accumulated in terms of dust. Opportunity (and before it degraded too much, Spirit) both were "swept" by winds during their missions, enabling power gains to be had. Hopefully Opportunity will be cleaned before long.
Sealand

The strange history of a micro-nation. I remember first hearing about this around the time I was reading Neal Stephenson's Very Fat Book about cryptography, treasure hunting and data havens.
Scribble, Scribble

Hey, Jack Kerouac, what do you think about writing?
A Very Big Bang

In today's Astronomy Picture of the Day, let's play "spot the supernova"!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Canon

No Godel or Escher, but plenty of Bach.
How To

How to build a Dyson Sphere in five easy steps.
Noteworthy

Stanley Kubrick's much-highlighted and heavily note-jotted copy of The Shining by Stephen King.
By the Way, Which One is Pink?

Man, I've got an urge to make some brownies, kick back, and mellow out. Don't know why.
Noburo Ishiguro

We've lost another one. The name may not ring a bell for you, but I'll bet you know his work.
Go for Throttle Up

The recent 60 Minutes piece on Elon Musk and SpaceX. To Mars, Elon, to Mars!
Rolling

It was just pointed out (by an actual driver of the vehicle) that it is now Sol 2900 of Opportunity's 90 Sol mission.

Just think about that for a second. Who says quality is dead?
Mind Games

O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space were it not that I have bad dreams.

(William Shakespeare)
Blood and Chrome

Take a look.

O.K., back? Looks good? Looks fantastic! Only problems being, it is SyFy (which keeps managing to screw things up) and Rumour Control says this has been bounced to "webseries" status. Let's hope it does well and stays strong.

But it is SyyyyFyyyyy...

Addendum: See above. SyyyyFyyyy strikes again!
Sky on Fire

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of the aurora over Iceland.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Best in One

Gene Wolfe; The Very Best of Gene Wolfe (PS Publishing Ltd.; 2009; ISBN 978-1-848630-27-7; cover art by J.K. Potter).

I first encountered Gene Wolfe between the pages of Damon Knight's annual Orbit series, in which I first encountered other life-long jewels such as Kate Wilhelm, Samuel R. Delany and Harlan Ellison. Wolfe and Delany were both more "out there", at least to my very young reading eyes, than Ellison and Wilhelm (and others).

The next encounter with Wolfe came when I first started dating the woman who would later become my wife. She gave me the paperback editions of Wolfe's (arguably) most famous work, Timescape Books paperbacks of The Book of the New Sun (The Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Sword of the Lictor, The Citadel of the Autarch). Inspired by Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance and relative to the works of another Timescape-published author, M. John Harrison (the Viriconium stories), it was an amazing read.

Time went by, occasionally Wolfe would come out with something and I would pick it up. Eventually I joined the Urth Mailing List, where a small(ish) group of fans spend an amazing time picking the tales apart and finding stuff that I've never noticed (it goes, for the most part, above me; I have not read these books and stories to the same depth!).

(Here's the thing about Wolfe. He works on many levels. I read the New Sun books as a straightforward science fictin or fantasy series set on a dying planet, like the Jack Vance Dying Earth tales. But, visit again and like a jewell that is rotating, you see a new face, you notice new details. Wolfe is a writer that pays for the attention you give him. Eventually you get to be like the folks on the Urth Mailing List.)

One list member suggested a read of Wolfe's shorter works in May. Wolfe's Shorts? In any case, as I probably will need a running start to get through a month of Wolfe in that period of time, I'm starting earlier, with this volume.

(Caveat time: there is a similarly named volume from Tor which has all but one of the stories that this volume has plus it is missing the introduction by Kim Stanley Robinson. You'll find it easier to buy, as this edition that I have, from PS Publishing, was a limited edition. Signed by the author. Take that!)

The introduction by Kim Stanley Robinson is interesting, but I have a feeling that he is not operating at the same depth as some members of the Urth Mailing List. Hints are dropped of a second volume. Count me in.

The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories: I recall reading this in Orbit, but other than the title nothing stuck with me. What was reality here? Did Edgar Rice Burroughs collide with William Faulkner?

The Toy Theater: A nice little story about puppets and puppeteers. This reminded me strongly of Alfred Bester in terms of plot and character. A good thing.

Made up of: Introduction: "A Story" (Kim Stanley Robinson); The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories; The Toy Theater; The Fifth Head of Cerberus; Beech Hill; The Recording; Hour of Trust; The Death of Dr. Island; La Befana; Forlessen; Westwind; The Hero as Werwolf; The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automation; Straw; The Eyeflash Miracles; Seven American Nights; The Detective of Dreams; Kevin Malone; The God and His Man; On the Train; From the Desk of Gilmer C. Merton; Death of Dr. Island; Redbeard; The Boy Who Hooked the Sun; Parkroads—a Review; Game in the Pope's Head; And When They Appear; Bed and Breakfast; Petting Zoo; The Tree Is My Hat; Has Anybody Seen Julie Moon?; A Cabin on the Coast; Christmas Inn.

Counts as three (3) entries in the 2012 Year in Shorts.
Definition

A teacher is put on leave for when accused of reading "pornographic materials" to school children. What were the books?

I'll bet it was that Agatha Christie book. That Miss Marple was into BDSM.
You Can Build Anything With Lego...

...including lab equipment!
Space Blues

Great video from the ISS: humor, music and a nice tour showing you how big the station is!

Addendum: Lots of video coming out of the space program. How about one for plumbing?
Moon June Spoon

How did our Moon come to look the way it did? Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a short video showing current theories.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Juggling

Hope you've all had a chance to see Venus and Jupiter in the conjunction (first time in a quarter century they've been this "close") they've been having recently. Also in the sky is Mars (eastern sky), Mercury and Uranus (not so easy to spot). Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day celebrates the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter with a little juggling act.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Founder of an Empire

News is coming through that Professor M.A.R. Barker, the man behind Tekumel, has passed away. EPT was the second RPG I owned, after GDW's venerable Traveller. It was a fantastic blend of Jack Vance, Clark Ashton Smith, a RPG that did not use J.R.R. Tolkien as inspiration.

A wonderful creation.

Addendum: Forbes has an obituary up.
Odd Scope

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a couple of planets in the sky near a telescope. Look at that telescope though, it is one of the oddest you'll ever see.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Flare Light

What does a solar flare (of which we have seen several recently!) "look" like in gamma ray wavelengths? Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day has the answer!
Flight Cycle

Fantastic footage from a forthcoming DVD about the space shuttle. The view from the solid rocket boosters from launch to splashdown. With sound! Launch, boost, separation, the sound of particles hitting the SRB's, the parachutes in the wind and more.

This will be a must-buy DVD when it comes out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Quiet Sun

It's been a banner year for auroral activity. Take a look at the photographs and videos on this site!
Spheres in the Hood

Meet the neighbors. Ten moons you should know.
Clusters

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Messier 81 and the Flux Nebula, a cluster of objects, at varying distances, in the constellation of Virgo.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Recursion

The wallet cringes. It appears I need to buy this book, soonest.
One Night in Bangkok

Two chess stores that are the sight of a long-simmering rivalry. Will a change in ownership for one bring peace?
There's a Bathroom on the Right

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the rising Moon over Lick Observatory.
Moebius

News is coming that Jean Henri Gaston Giraud, better known to many fans as Moebius, has passed away.

I first encountered his artwork in college in the American-published version of Heavy Metal (Metal Hurlant). He worked on a never-produced version of Dune (a portfolio of his work that that version of the film can be found here), worked on Alien and other productions that came to pass, produced one of my favorite (never finished, alas, to my view) graphic serials, The Airtight Garage and much more.

I very recently bought a republished version of his Incal strips.

I admire many artists, but he is one of my all-time favorites.

Moebius, I salute you with my pen. Many thanks for hours of entertainment and education.

A Tumblr dedicated to his artwork.

Addendum: Irene Gallo (Art Director at Tor Books) has this tribute. A video sampling of his work. Bleeding Cool's obituary. RFI's obituary. The Long Tomorrow, a comic by Moebius. A listing of works. A BBC video about him. Drawing with Moebius and others. ***Dave notes the passing. Gavin J. Rothery talks about Moebius. io9's take. Illustrator John Picacio shares his (most excellent) thoughts. Palette Swap on the passing. The Locus obituary. Classic 1987 Comics Journal Interview. The Unspeakable Vault of Doom's tribute.

And over on Twitter, Neil Gaiman says: "RIP Jean Giraud who wrote and drew as Moebius. His art inspired me when I was 14, & his stories did too, because I didn't understand them. In Endless Nights, Death in Venice was written for Moebius to draw. He was too sick, so I wrote the last Destiny story for him, & hoped." (Expanded thoughts by Neil Gaiman can be found here.)

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Star Pit

An audio version (quality varies) of The Star Pit by Samuel R. Delany and notes by the author on the same. Your Friday dose of fiction.
Fair Warning

In morning, while at work, before the telephones start ringing and the general level of conversation builds and builds, I keep hearing something.

Something. Scuttling. Rustling. Above my head. In the vents or the pipes or maybe even on the roof. Facilities has looked and claims there is nothing there. No droppings. No nests. No debris. Nothing to make noise. I'm hearing things.

Maybe. Maybe not.

So, I'm putting this out there for all of you. Just in case. Just in case we're ever at a party together. Just in case I start choking and clutching my chest. It won't be food "going down the wrong pipe". It won't be a heart attack.

It'll be your warning that alien chestburster is about to make an appearance. So you all might want to stand back. Just a tad.
Dust Lanes

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the "Trifid of the North", not the more familiar Trifid Nebula, but NGC 1579 in the constellation of Perseus.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Flock of Seagulls

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is The Seagull Nebula, a vast expanse of gas made up of several named and unnamed items (e.g., IC 2177, NGC 2327). This is one I've never seen (lousy New Jersey skies!).

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Tools

I'm always fascinated by posts like these. Favorite fountain pens of Neil Gaiman.
Earthly Delights

Neil Gaiman looks at this famous painting.
Conjunction

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows two planets and one moon. Three more planets are visible in the night sky, but only one of the three (Mars) is easily spotted.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Still Life with Star Field

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 2170, a dusty nebulae in the constellation of Monoceros.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Free Live Free

I must confess to never having seen this Gene Wolfe cover before.
You Can Make Anything With LEGO

A Lego version of Hayabusa. I especially love the way you can change the mini of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi's expression.

Addendum: A Lego space shuttle soars 21 miles into the atmosphere!
Ground Jupiter

This is a picture by an "amateur" astronomer.
Pray, Which One is the Sloop?

A short video describing (in basic terms) how sailing ships are rigged.
Ansible! Ansible!

Our long national nightmare is over. The March 2012 issue of Ansible is UP!

William Gibson retains the power to surprise journalists: 'For a science-fiction novelist, William Gibson is oddly reluctant to be called a prophet.' (The Week, 10 February). [MMW]
The Past is a Forgotten Country

M. John Harrison has no archives. This could be troublesome. Think of the children!
What Might Have Been

Over at Beyond Apollo, a space telescope based on the Mercury space capsule. Get your alternate history space program books going...
Night Flight

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the view from the ISS over our planet. Amazing footage!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Warp

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows ESO 510-13. Did anybody get the number of the truck that hit this galaxy?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

This Cat Has Three Tails

Another shot of Comet Garradd (C2009/P1) in today's Astronomy Picture of the Day. As it makes the closest approach to us, it seems to have sprouted a third tail!

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Long Form

Gene Wolfe on writing a multi-volume series. We are not fit to carry his pencil case.
Jupter Space: Phew! What a Strip!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows several "conventional" views of Jupiter and one strip view. The bottom map is one that is often used by those of us who still draw what we observe, rather than snap pictures. Jupiter rotates so fast that, given a long enough night, good seeing throughout, and enough of the planet in the sky you can fill in such a map. Nifty stuff, old techniques that still live on!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Evening Star

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Venus in a light that we normally don't see: multiple shades of color.
February: The Month in Review

So the leap-engorged month comes to a close and I look back at my count. I haven't updated video or audio (either music or podcasts), so I'll leave those alone for now. Just the short and long of it.

Books read for the year-to-date: Four!

Short works read for the year-to-date: 105!

I've been trying to concentrate more on the short end of things this year, both to clear out a backlog and to try and see what all these new kids are writing. But, of course, I then fret that I'm not reading enough long works. You never win!

Highlights for the month include Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed; Grace Immaculate by Gregory Benford; Gorilla; My Dreams by David Brin (hilarious); Bubba Ho-Tep by Joe Lansdale (now will have to watch the movie again). An overall disappointment have been the various entries in the Zombie vs. Robots series. The best I can say is they were cheap to buy.
Crowded House

Angry Robots marching in. So many books. So little time. So many ex-lover's to bury.
Cover Story

So my wife picked up one of my copies (yes, I have several, doesn't everybody?) of Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon (see review here) and summarized the plot, based on the cover, as follows:

It's about a hot-but-scrappy-looking teenage girl and her boyfriend who are with a old man who has delusions of being Moses.