Sunday, March 31, 2013

All Alone in the Night

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a video compilation of footage taken from the ISS. Stunning stuff. Maybe more folks should see things like this.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

PanSTARRS by the Tail

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a long-term exposure of Comet PanSTARRS, still visible (other than for me!) in the western sky. "Mouseover" the image or take a look here to see how the tail (composed of dust grains of various sizes) is structured.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Full Monty

The most astounding thing you will see today.
Boxes and Books

And what about book buying, anyway? Yes, another cutback.

While on The Twitters, it is often joked that most of my tweets are book purchases (not quite true), there have been a lot of cutbacks. Why is that?

The first is that while everyone is urging that I, for example, spend more at Barnes & Noble, I've almost stopped buying from there. Why? I've talked about that in the past. The trend has gotten worse, not better, from my last visits to the two local big boxes.

Second, while I bought a lot of self-published or small (tiny) press stuff in the past two years (especially as eBooks), the party is over. I can think of at least two small presses that are fading if not spiraling into nothingness. A mid-sized publisher that I am growing more and more disenchanted with. And most of the independent or self-published stuff has been eh at best if not complete garbage.

So it's back to the folks I'm familiar with or the books I've bought from new folks that I haven't gotten around to until I can "catch up" on Mount Toberead. Perhaps some of those new folks will turn into regular purchases, we shall see. But the interest in buying somebody to "support the arts" (or support fill-in-the-blank) has ended. No doubt, given the volume of books I buy, this will result in the total collapse of several fields of publishing (not), but books will survive in the long run. B&N may go under, cities may fall, but reading will survive.
The Giving Tree

And hard on the heels of the last pronouncement (there will be more!), comes a statement about giving and buying. Between last year and up to today, I donated about $2,000.00 to non-taxable causes (by which I mean, I can't note these donations on my tax return and offset what the government gets from me). Alas, the music has stopped, the carousel has wound down and that won't be happening this year.


Two reasons. First, local costs have gone up, my salary (already down significantly form when I last had a "real job") has not. Hurricane Sandy left us with a number of needed expenses. I am looking at a medical bill this year of about $6,000.00 without too much insurance covering it. So, the wallet cringes and the wallet closes.

The second may sound selfish: but, hey, how about me? I haven't gone on a "real" vacation in about ten years (other than weekend camping trips and several "staycations" where I worked at home on maintenance or caring for others). I'm cutting back on book purchases (believe it or not, see what will be another posting here, when I get around to writing it), rarely go to the movies, have bought very little in the way of tunes, etc. Two kays of non-reportable giving adds up to at least something in my pocket.

Sorry folks, the non-deductible giving tree is closed.

Having just participated in the Dresden Codak funding project, I've gotten to the point where I'm saying "All, right. I'm done."

Why? Was that project poorly run? No, quite the contrary, but...

At this point I've participated (at various levels) in twenty-seven Kickstarter projects and several more through non-KS sites. For some of these, I was helping to raise money for a cause, so no reward was looked for. On the project (KS and non-KS) side of things, whether it is "official" or not, I participated in order to get something. A book. A game. A piece of art. There have been statements from various quarters that this is not what KS is "really for", but let us face the facts: if you weren't provided with a product, most folks would back a few projects but then stop.

My return on investment has been slipping. Oh no, not in the majority of cases and not even a significant minority, but enough so that it is starting to leave a sour taste in my mouth. Several projects have been managed in a very sloppy fashion: they did not plan ahead, they are poor managers, they are crappy communicators.

For some of these projects, I wouldn't mind a slipped schedule or some sort of roadblock if the project managed communications better. For one project, a relaunch of the classic mircogame Ogre, the schedule has slipped but the people behind the project have done a stellar job of communicating the issues; so I don't mind. But for others: missed deadlines, lost data, zero to low communications, poor writing in what few communications have been made. Bad feelings, me.

So, going forward...unless it is somebody that I know by reputation from another field or fields so I have a sense of their reputation, no big bucks invested. Probably (unless it is a reward in the form of an eBook) no little bucks either. I rather suspect that there will be a Kickstarter implosion coming. I have no clue if I am alone in feeling this, but for me, the money is off the table.
Cosmic Yarn

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 3169 and NGC 3166. This pair of galaxy are interacting, and, as a result, NGC 3169 appears to be unraveling like a ball of yarn.
I Hate Regional Restrictions

Great new announcement about Michael Moorcock. Can I buy them? Nope, not a one. I can buy the physical books from other countries, but not the electronic books. The publishing industry is run by a bunch of idiots.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The City of Lights

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of the City of Lights, Paris. And a rainbow. There's something different about that rainbow...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Just Another Dull Day on Earth

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is just a dull, boring winter landscape. Nothing to see here, move along!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snapshot into the Light

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is the recently-generated map of hot and cold patterns in the cosmic microwave background. The data was collected by the ESA's Planck satellite and shows that the universe is slightly older than we previously estimated (13.81 billion years).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Into the Stargate

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day reminds me of some of the sequences in the "stargate" sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


What a Soyuz capsule looks like after re-entry. Ouch. Hot. Ouch.
There Are Some Invitations One Should Hesitate Over

NASA Invites Media Inside One of the World's Largest Vacuum Chambers. Will they let the media out again?
What Made Universe

White dwarfs and astroengineering. What mad(e) universe.
The Blades of Europa

Is Europa covered with "ice blades" of up to 10 meters long? A recent paper says so, and if true, this could mean landing a probe on that moon (to search for life) could be problematic. What innovative means will be developed to get around the "blades"?
Paper Obsession

I love Moleskine notebooks (although you'll fine plenty to profess hate as well). (I also love Field Notebooks, equal time). There are plenty who say you stay more organized and improve your memory if you write stuff down. Some, like A.E. van Vogt, keep (kept, in his case) a notebook near the bed to write down any dreams they have (for story fodder).

I wonder, however, how far this approach will go. Will Moleskine roll out a chain across the country and have them implode? Or is this a store effort designed more for the publicity than anything else?
Complex Interplay

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day combines data from the Herschel Space Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope to give a highly detailed look at the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our galaxy's satellites.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Castle and PanSTARRS

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet PanSTARRS (still not viewable here, thanks clouds!) over Castle Hohenzollern in Germany.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 2736, part of the Vela supernova remnant. This composite shows beautifully the ripples of the expanding interstellar shock wave. The nova is popularly known as The Pencil Nebula.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Great Nebula

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a stunning view of Messier 42, the Great Nebula in Orion.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Different Moon

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a full hemisphere of our Moon, as viewed by the data collected by the twin GRAIL orbiters, Ebb and Flow.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Continued Cold and Cloudy

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful shot of Comet PanSTARRS in the sunset sky. No, I did not take the picture. No, I haven't seen the comet. Yes, the forecast is for more "wintry mix". Sigh.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Echoes of Light

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows V838 Mon, in the constellation of Monoceros. In January 2003, V838 Mon became the brightest star in our galaxy. The light echo of that flash is captured here by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet PanSTARRS over France. Looks like some of us have had nice skies!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Vermin from the Skies

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Comet PanSTARRS and...what's that? The Black Cloud? An Stapledonian Interstellar Entity? No, a Coronal Mass Ejection from our Sun, en route to our small rock. Expect green skies for Saint Paddy's Day, marching down from the poles if it hits (last estimate I saw was 70% chance).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Elusive Comet

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of Comet PanSTARRS peaking through a cloudy sky. My skies have been considerably more than cloudy so far, so no view here!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Eyes Have It

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a Hubble Space Telescope shot of NGC 6751, the "Glowing Eye Nebula". Someone is watching you!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spin Dizzy

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day looks at how fast, hypothetically speaking, one could spin a black hole. (Hint: very fast.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

I've Seen Fire, I've Seen Rain

And sometimes you see both. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is lava, raining fire, and lightning all rolled in one.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

To the Moon

Over at Slate, the new(ish) home for Phil Plait ("The Bad Astronomer") some nice shots of a recent Hubble Space Telescope imaging session of our nearest neighbor.
Cognitive Dissonance

Yes, you get snow in beautiful sunny Hawaii, as today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows. You also get beautiful views of the Milky Way. "Mouseover" the image to get some constellation guides.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Heading North!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) in the twilight southern skies. God willing and the creek don't rise, we poor northern hemisphere types will spot this soon!
My Misbegotten Yut

A good article about the man who brought us the game Diplomacy. I did not play much Diplomacy, but I sure played a lot of the descendants.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Lens Flare

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a wonderful example of gravitational lensing: using the gravity of an object, such as a galaxy, to see other objects well beyond the reach of our current telescopes. Abell 68 (1.2 billion light years away) brings even further objects into view. "Mouseover" the image for some labels to help you identify the objects.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Astral Helmet

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is of NGC 2359, a nebular bubble that is more popularly known as Thor's Helmet.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Of Carpenters and Kings

A classic. Just don't spread the butter on too thick.
The Bear Necessities

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day might be one of the odder ones that they've done. A super-sized tardigrade, or (as you may know it) water bear. One of the stranger co-inhabitants of our little blue sphere.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Two Comets

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful southern sky view of two visitors to our neck of the woods. Comet Lemmon (C/2012 F6) and Comet PANSTARRS (C/2011 L4) are now coming into full view in southern skies. Both will move slowly into the northern hemisphere, knock on wood. "Mouseover" the picture for additional information.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Heart Nebula

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day could be a shot from the Hubble Space Telescope...but is a shot by an "amateur". Astonishing stuff!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Pattern Recognition

What does a satellites orbit look like? Here's 51 months of data from the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescopes journey around our planet.

In this installment of the NASA Image of the Day Gallery, the Hubble Space Telescope observes planetary nebula ESO 456-67.

As above, so below. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows star trails above and river and ground trails below: Time-elapse photograph over the Grand Canyon.

It's back! It's bad! It's better than ever!

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Friday, March 01, 2013

All the Colors of Mercury

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is one that I posted earlier (from a different source): a color image of the Solar System's innermost planet.