Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Headline Story in Today's Iceland Review

Sheep Unharmed After 20-Meter Fall into the Ocean

The ewe Dollý, named after the first cloned sheep, swam ashore unharmed after falling from a 20-meter high cliff into the ocean by Stórhöfdi in the Westman Islands yesterday. The ewe was trapped on the beach for approximately half a day before it was noticed.

“I received a phone call from the excursion boat Víkingur, which had taken tourists into the bay by Stórhöfdi. They saw the sheep there on the seashore,” farmer Haukur Gudjónsson, Dollý’s owner, told Fréttabladid.

He went to pick up his ewe on an inflatable boat and take it back to the pastures where its lambs were waiting, pleased to be reunited with their mother.

Gudjónsson said it is incredible that Dollý is unharmed after such a harsh fall, although its temperament has changed a bit. The ewe wouldn’t eat the bread handed to it on the beach but ate it once inside the boat—it must have been starving after the ordeal.

The farmer said it is uncommon for sheep to fall off cliffs in the islands, although it happens on occasion in autumn when there is not as much grass to feed on and the sheep are tempted to graze close to the precipice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I went to the zoo yesterday with my friend Lyda and her son. It was hot. I wrote a poem.

Zoo Poem


In the primate house
tiny tamarins,
no larger than my hand,
move behind glass.

I watch them; and
a gorilla watches


Big cats lie flat,
too hot to move,
except the tiger
prowling and moaning,
“Damn weather!
Damn weather!”

The poem came to me as I was going to sleep last night. I thought of getting up and writing it down, but decided I'd remember it in the morning; and I did.

I am not crazy about this poem. I keep tinkering and being unsatisfied. However, it reminds me of the day and the zoo and Lyda and Mason.

Courtesy of NASA

The tracks of the Mars rover Opportunity.

I really like this one. That's Mars! Those are the tracks of a machine made on Earth!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Today's Headline in the Iceland Review

"Breaking News: No Volcanic Activity in Iceland."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Courtesy of NASA

Suspended by magnetic fields above a solar active region this dark filament stretches over 40 earth-diameters. The ominous structure appears to be frozen in time near the Sun's edge, but solar filaments are unstable and often erupt. The detailed scene was captured on May 18 in extreme ultraviolet light by cameras on board the Solar Dynamics Observatory. While the cooler plasma of the filament looks dark, hotter, brighter plasma below traces magnetic field lines emerging from the active region. When seen arcing above the edge of the Sun, filaments actually look bright against the dark background of space and are called prominences.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Back to the Volcano # 2

The plume from space. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Back to the Volcano

The plume from Eyjafjallajokull above the clouds. Photo courtesy of the Icelandic Meterological Service. I love a country where the weather service reports on earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

News from Iceland

Headlines for top two news stories in today's Iceland Review: (1) Iceland considered safe destination for tourists. (2) Man hit with axe in the head in quiet neighborhood.

A Chaotic Star Birth as Seen by the Spitzer Telescope

From NASA:
Located 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus, a reflection nebula called NGC 1333 epitomizes the beautiful chaos of a dense group of stars being born. Most of the visible light from the young stars in this region is obscured by the dense, dusty cloud in which they formed. With NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists can detect the infrared light from these objects. This allows a look through the dust to gain a more detailed understanding of how stars like our sun begin their lives.

The young stars in NGC 1333 do not form a single cluster, but are split between two sub-groups. One group is to the north near the nebula shown as red in the image. The other group is south, where the features shown in yellow and green abound in the densest part of the natal gas cloud. With the sharp infrared eyes of Spitzer, scientists can detect and characterize the warm and dusty disks of material that surround forming stars. By looking for differences in the disk properties between the two subgroups, they hope to find hints of the star- and planet-formation history of this region.

The knotty yellow-green features located in the lower portion of the image are glowing shock fronts where jets of material, spewed from extremely young embryonic stars, are plowing into the cold, dense gas nearby. The sheer number of separate jets that appear in this region is unprecedented. This leads scientists to believe that by stirring up the cold gas, the jets may contribute to the eventual dispersal of the gas cloud, preventing more stars from forming in NGC 1333.

In contrast, the upper portion of the image is dominated by the infrared light from warm dust, shown as red.

Milky Way as Seen by NASA's Spitzer Infrared Telescope

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Top Three News Stories in Today's Iceland Review

(1) Icelandic hen breeder starts farming again. (2) Buses soon given access to Iceland highland valley. (3) Sheep moved away from Iceland eruption site.

Story four is about a banker imprisoned for his part in the destruction of the Icelandic economy. Story five is about volcanic ash closing Icelandic airports.

I like the Iceland Review's priorities.


It's a lovely sunny day outside. I am lazing inside, working on blog entries and thinking about writing. I have applied for two jobs, one of which sounds good -- the right number of hours and a nearby location...

The following is a post I made on the Wyrdsmiths blog:

I'm working on two YA novels at the moment; and I keep both in my mind, which isn't a problem yet, because I'm at the start of both, and don't have an outline of either.

I would like to have outlines. But these particular novels aren't taking a clear shape yet. I suppose I ought to settle down and write outlines, simply force myself to make up a plot.

I have worked both ways, sometimes knowing what a story is about when I start it, and sometimes having no idea. Just starting with a situation, an image or a line. Usually, at some point in a story, I figure out the direction and the ending.

But right now I have not a clue. When I do have a clue, I will probably still keep most of the story in my mind. I write down details -- the number of the days in a year on an alien planet, military ranks if I'm writing a military space opera, the number of moons a planet has, their sizes and colors, how they move in the sky...

Hubble Panorama of the Whale Galaxy

From the Astronomy Photo of the Day commentary:

NGC 4631 is a big beautiful spiral galaxy seen edge-on at only about 30 million light-years away. This galaxy's slightly distorted wedge shape led to its popular moniker of the Whale galaxy. The Whale's dark interstellar dust clouds and young bright blue star clusters highlight this panoramic color image. The band of NGC 4631 not only appears similar to band of our own Milky Way Galaxy, but its size is truly similar to our Milky Way as well. The galaxy is also known to have spouted a halo of hot gas glowing in x-rays. The Whale galaxy spans about 140,000 light years and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici).

Click on the photo to get a bigger version.

Miss USA

The new Miss USA is Rima Fikah from Dearborn, Michigan. As her name and home town suggest, she is Arab-American -- of Lebanese descent, from a Shiite Moslem family and apparently the first Arab-American and Moslem to win the title. She got onto the pageant circuit hoping to pay off her college tuition.

A blond from Oklahoma who said she was in favor of the new Arizona immigration law was the first runner-up.

We will pass over the probable reactions of right wingers to a Moslem Miss USA and pass over the probable reactions of conservative Moslems to a Moslem woman on a runway in a bikini.

I think it's neat this young lady won. Up Michigan! And up diversity!
This if from an essay by Will Hutton in the Observer:

The great truth of capitalism is that it took off only once the European Enlightenment created the great institutions that kept it honest – the rule of law, a free press, accountability mechanisms, ways of forcing monopolists to give up their ill-gotten gains, creating competitive markets and elections. Before that there was tax-farming and the buying and selling of monopolies – rather as in China today. The Enlightenment offered the means, however imperfect, to challenge all that. The great mistake of the free-market revolution was to argue that all that was needed to make capitalism work was free, lightly regulated and flexible markets – and that institutions imposing ethics, transparency, accountability got in the way. We now know better.

I need to think about this. But the idea that capitalism is a product of the institutions that try to control it is interesting. I guess the argument would be, those institutions work to control the drive toward crisis that seems part of capitalism. Without them, capitalism might have destroyed itself by now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sidewalk Poem

A man loads his home --
two carts stuffed full of stuff --
on the bus.

Two of us move back.
One helps with the carts.

A man has a right to room and help
when his whole home
is on the bus.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Another Sunny Day

I have a poem set in concrete in three places in St. Paul. Patrick decided to find the poem today. The concrete in question is sidewalk blocks. We found two of them, and Pat took photos of the poem and me. Some of the other poems we found were chipped and unreadable, but mine was nice and sharp.

A lovely day. The French lilacs are past their prime, though still blooming, and the Korean lilacs are blooming as well.

We went shopping for groceries, came home and cleaned, which always feels good after it's done. Copies of my new novel Tomb of the Fathers arrived in the mail. The book looks really good. I am going to have to buy a new bookcase. I don't have room for all the copies of this book and Mammoths of the Great Plains.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Today is Bright and Clear

And I am spending it indoors. My fiction writing group met yesterday evening, and I am feeling a bit worn out.

The astronomy photo of the day is awesome. Unfortunately, it is copyrighted. So I am not going to post it. But I am posting the link.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another Gray Day

But I'm in a far better mood. I went to the library and then to a coffee shop to read. This involved walking in a light rain, which I enjoyed. It was also enjoyable to sit in a big, comfy chair in the coffee shop and read a Diana Wynne Jones book.

One of my friends does a "Tuesday Tips" email of quotes and thoughts. Today's quote was from Leonard Cohen:
If I can do just one thing, I can write this story.
I saw that after I got back from the coffee shop and thought this is a message. So I worked on one of my current stories.

Monday, May 10, 2010

On the Plus Side

There is this from the London Times Online:
Being serving police officers, they would no doubt leave their sun worshipping, mead drinking and naked dancing for their days off, not to mention the annual practice of leaving food out for the wandering dead.

As of today, however, pagan police have the right to take their festivals as official holiday after their support group won formal recognition from the Home Office.

The Pagan Police Association was announced by co-founder PC Andy Pardy, who, when he is not patrolling the beat in Hertfordshire, is a heathen worshipper of Norse gods including Thor and Odin.

The article continues. It's charming, and it lists all the pagan holidays British cops can now take...

Gray Day

It's a gray day, and I am struggling with writing that is not going well. The Gulf oil spill sounds worse and worse. The news from Washington is not pleasant. I used to say that every president made the previous president look better. I don't think Obama makes Bush look better, but I don't like Obama at all. He is a smart version of Bush.

My current theory is the rich in the US and Europe expect to be able to retreat into armed and armored enclaves when the environment collapses, and the world descends into famine and war. They will have members of the middle class to serve them -- doctors, maintenance workers, hair stylists and so on; and they will have soldiers to protect them. Their lives will continue in comfort for a while.

So they don't have to worry about oil spills or global warming. They will be safe in a fortress in Antarctica.

Maybe they will be able to make it through until most of the human race dies off. But maybe when people have nothing left except anger, they will storm the enclaves. Or maybe the enclaves will break down. How do you maintain 21st century civilization in an enclave? What happens when you don't have a worldwide support system?

How can you remain rich if the world that produces your wealth is destroyed?

Sunday, May 09, 2010


My chapbook Mammoths of the Great Plains is out. I have held copies in my hands. It can be ordered from Amazon.

And Here Are Two More Examples

Notice the graffitti on the 18th century house and cart.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Patrick and I saw an awesome movie today: Exit Through the Gift Shop. It's hard to describe, except to say it's apparently a true story -- a documentary -- and is described as "The First Street Art Disaster Movie." It's about street art and is both funny and horrible.

The guy responsible for the movie (along with other people) is the English street artist Banksy. If you don't know his work, here is one example.

He does a lot of rats, as does the French street artist Blek le Rat. I want to do a panel at Diversacon on rats in science fiction and fantasy and may want to include rats in street art. Rats are iconographically interesting, if iconographic is the word I want. Sneaky vermin, cute pets, hugely useful lab animals, carriers of disease... I like them because they are survivors and have fur. Cockroaches don't have fur.

I'm not sure cockroachs would seem better with fur. They sound kind of awful, like the hairy white crabs that have been found around deep sea hot spots.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Another Picture from Greece

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Maybe It's Time To Visit Greece

The photo is from The Guardian today, as is this:
Passing in front of Athens' imposing Greek parliament, demonstrators shouted: "Let the rich pay for the crisis."
What a radical idea!

The Oil Spill # 2

I am watching the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico spread. It seems to me that the New York Times is giving it less coverage than the Icelandic volcano, which is a small volcano, as the Icelanders kept pointing out. An inconvenience for air travelers, but not a crisis except for the farmers living right next to the eruption. No one died.

Per the Times today: facing a crisis similar to what the Toyota Motor Company had with uncontrolled acceleration, despite its efforts to control the damage to its reputation as a corporate citizen.
It's really odd to compare this to Toyota's little problem with acceleration, which was terrible for a handful of people, but was not important to most of the world; and it's odd to call this a PR crisis. It's a huge environmental disaster.

It has the potential to ruin the economies of five American states. If the spill ends in the Gulf's 'loop currents,' it might be carried around Florida and up the East Coast.

I don't know what might happen to the Caribbean islands. American news media are not covering that.

Maybe the Times figures its readers will not be inconvenienced. Or maybe it wants to play down the cost of free enterprise.

The Oil Spill

This is a photo of the oil rig fire from Talking Point Memo. To me it looks like a science fiction book cover: a space station exploding in an interstellar war. Though this would have to be a structure on a planet, since we can see the ocean. An amazing photo.

We are in the future.