"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, December 31, 2011

An American Penguin

When I first created a cute penguin using Adobe Illustrator, I could not have anticipated the outpouring of support, the clamoring for more, the sheer love that this fella would generate from my readers. It is with great pride that I show where the penguin now resides, ensconced among the most revered historical figures of this land.

Sincere thanks to Adobe Photoshop CS5, y'know, for helping me crop the image...and thanks to Jim Bowen and Wikimedia Commons, y'know, for taking a photo that looks remarkably like mine.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not a Creature was Stirring...

But they were about to be stirred...

As part of my investigative photo journalistic efforts, I infiltrated my parents' home during Christmas and found this disturbing sight. I swear I did not personally stage this photo. Said fuzzy critters were subsequently rescued and the nearby turkey was cooked instead. No statements were provided by my niece or nephew despite repeated attempts to get them to sit still. Asked for comment, grand-parental figures only giggled. I am going ahead with releasing this photo in the hopes that this never happens again.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Cosmos Clearinghouse for December 2011

Solar Sail To The Rescue

It turns out solar sailing, using energy from the sun to propel spacecraft, may help improve quality of life on Earth. Observing spacecraft powered by solar sails could provide more advanced warning time. Warning time to whom? And for what? To operators of satellites and power grids so they can brace for harmful solar flares. This brief NASA video includes some great footage and graphics.

Regular readers know I have blogged about solar sails before. I am a fan. For some background, you can read my post Harnessing "The Wind From the Sun"

Dawn Spacecraft Getting Even Closer to Vesta

Also proving the relevance and wonder of space exploration is the Dawn spacecraft. As I write these words, Dawn is in a low orbit that brings it within 130 miles of the asteroid Vesta. In addition to radiation and gravity data, Dawn's successful orbit of the second largest asteroid in the main belt brings us one step closer to human exploration. Given that similar objects have routinely struck the Earth and likely will again, the need to be well-practiced at intercepting them should be obvious. Sadly, it isn't obvious to many, including elected officials. So here is another reason to explore asteroids and comets that should reach a wider swath of humanity: mining profits.

Artist concept based on Dawn images of the asteroid Vesta
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Excerpts from a Novel Rough Draft

As promised, here are some excerpts from the rough draft of my first novel. To me, they seem very rough but have promise. Who knows if they will survive a second revision? I would be grateful for any reactions you have from reading these smidgens.

From Part One of Retrograde, Wanderer

Though he was now husky, and his clothing underscored a lack of vitality, even a haggardness, still when he pivoted to walk back up toward town center, he did so with the elegance and poise of a dancer--and this was no coincidence. Even having let himself go quite a bit in the past couple of years, he walked with a purposeful bounce, an inherent deliberateness. Passing by the trinket shop that fronted the street and creek on two sides, he took on the gate of a man about to get something over with. Past an empty store front and then past the chamber of commerce, he turned onto Middle Street. A new car was parked on the street in front of the office he was about to help close for business. The last client, Evan surmised.

From Part Two of Retrograde, Wanderer

Now Evan listened to the vintage 56K modem connect to a remote server and download his latest e-mail. Simultaneously, he opened up his draft folder to a document with the subject line: Notice of Voluntary Suspension of Membership.

The document read as follows:

Dear Worshipful Master, Sojourner’s Lodge No. 103

With due respect, and gratitude for the brotherhood and fellowship I have often enjoyed in the Lodge, I respectfully withdraw my membership. For a variety of reasons, which I am more than willing to discuss if you desire clarification, I cannot continue as a member of Freemasonry. In good conscience, I hereby withdraw my membership. Simply put, I do not feel that this is either the civic or theological home for me ... You also have my word as gentleman, that I will never share with others those secrets of the Lodge which I was provided as part of my membership, Again, if you have any questions, please feel free to write or call me. But I must cease my formal association with the fraternity, effective immediately.


Evan Lawrence Morgan

From Part Three of Retrograde, Wanderer

“Don’t name him,” the suddenly impish Phil said. Evan whirled again toward miniature Marlotte. “Why must you name him? Why must you ravage every last sacred tale? Let some things remain mysterious and fabled. Your brain will feel so much better.” And now he, they both, stood in a cold horizontal pillar of cobalt haze. Marlotte shivered and then spoke again. “Evan, this universe is getting so cold. It’s moving too fast away from itself. It’s…it’s…” Evan stumbled forward and then back. The sun turned cool blue and icy like a crystal sphere. Then Phil dropped down into a crouch and slammed the backs of his hands on the dirt drive so that they shattered into ice shards. “It’s too architect-damned cold!”

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pining for 'Life on Mars' and Earth

Life on MarsLife on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What I find most enlivening about Life on Mars is how naturally and completely Tracy K. Smith erases the line between sci-fi, sci-reality, and contemporary poetry. This isn’t one genre impersonating another. Nor is it a medley that vacillates awkwardly between different idioms. This is a singular work with no confines other than the governing forces of the universe: space, time and gravity.

Ms. Smith doesn’t other the universe as so many of us do—compartmentalizing it into a distant and foreign place that some foolishly regard as irrelevant. All that existence is mingles on the page to produce a longing for emotional communion and intellectual understanding. For me, it is heartwarming to see another creative thinker who interacts with the cosmos on such a spiritually holistic, yet grounded humanistic plane.

I find Life on Mars very accessible, but not thin or superficial. Smith’s voice is confident and unapologetic, but also exudes tenderness. The poems give voice to a range of universal feelings: desire for intimacy; desire to transcend; and desire to renew. Life on Mars explores what it means to be human in the post-Einstein, post-Apollo, and soon to be post-Hubble universe.

Lastly, I had the delightful chance to share a couple of these poems with a niece and nephew over Thanksgiving weekend. They are teenagers. We were looking for things to do other than watch TV, so I exercised my avuncular gravitas and made them read poetry. I had them take turns reading a poem aloud. And I told them not to get hung up if it didn’t make sense right away.

Afterwards, we discussed what the poems got them thinking about. I won’t go into specifics but it was wonderful to see their intellects churning, coming up with ideas while mulling over initially cryptic phrases. We arrived at a place where we could talk candidly about what it means to be a human these days. My thanks to the author. Life on Mars is poetry that provokes rich discussion across generations.

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