Monday, April 25, 2011


The second day at Minicon was better. I was tired. I went to panels and listened and didn't speak from the audience. I talked a bit to people I know. But I didn't feel the need to be charming and witty.

If I could learn to be this relaxed every day at cons, I would enjoy them more. I am, after all, old enough so I don't have to impress people.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I was at Minicon all day yesterday. I had some good conversations with friends, but as usual I talked too much. This is a typical reaction to conventions, especially ones where I know a lot of people.

One of my fantasies is to go to a science fiction convention where I know no one. I would go to panels, a lot of them, and listen and say nothing. Sit alone in the hotel restaurant and write in my journal. Think about science fiction and fantasy and the SF community.

I would probably end up feeling lonely and neglected. But as a fantasy it seems lovely and restful.

Maybe I should try it at some con like World Fantasy. The last time I checked it, I recognized almost no one on the membership list.

An Awesome Image from NASA

Staring across interstellar space, the alluring Cat's Eye nebula lies three thousand light-years from Earth. A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood. Seen so clearly in this sharp Hubble Space Telescope image, the truly cosmic eye is over half a light-year across. Of course, gazing into the Cat's Eye, astronomers may well be seeing the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution ... in about 5 billion years.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Can Remember

Another poem.
I can remember people standing in line outside bars
at seven or eight a.m., waiting for the doors to open.
That was in Detroit when the town ran day and night,
making cars at Dodge Main, Highland,
Eldon Gear and Axle, Cadillac.
A guy got off the night shift sweating and tired,
eight hours of building America, and he wanted a beer.

That’s all gone now; grass grows
where the plants stood and workers had their houses.
I could mourn Detroit the way Jeremiah
mourned Jerusalem. Who builds America now?
Where are the workers out of a poem by Sandburg:
broad-shouldered and covered with sweat,
pissed at the straw boss, ready for a beer?

Most likely, it is too sentimental. But I am sentimental about Detroit.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Dust clouds and embedded newborn stars glow at infrared wavelengths in this tantalizing false-color composition from WISE, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. The cosmic canvas features one of the closest star forming regions, part of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex some 400 light-years distant near the southern edge of the pronounceable constellation Ophiuchus. After forming along a large cloud of cold molecular hydrogen gas, young stars heat the surrounding dust to produce the infrared glow. Stars in the process of formation, called young stellar objects or YSOs, are embedded in the compact pinkish nebulae seen here, but are otherwise hidden from the prying eyes of optical telescopes. An exploration of the region in penetrating infrared light has detected emerging and newly formed stars whose average age is estimated to be a mere 300,000 years. That's extremely young compared to the Sun's age of 5 billion years. The prominent reddish nebula at the lower right surrounding the star Sigma Scorpii is a reflection nebula produced by dust scattering starlight. This view from WISE spans almost 2 degrees and covers about 14 light-years at the estimated distance of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I found the notebook I took east with me in February, and it contained three poems I never input to my computer. (I took a computer with me, Patrick's eee-pc, but the poems were scrawled in the notebook.) It's a very nice Marimekko notebook with a terrific Cross pen. Unfortuntely, I collect notebooks and pens, and both can get lost in the multitudes.

Anyway, here are the poems. They are not great, but I kind of like them:
Plane Lunch

High above the white clouds --
a liverwurst sandwich
on soft, white bread.

I hasten to add, it was not my liverwurst sandwich on soft, white bread. It belonged to the guy across the aisle. He appeared to enjoy it.
Thaw Poems


Temp above freezing --
great heaps of dirty snow
melt into wet streets.


No longer lithe,
I cannot leap
over great heaps
of frozen snow.
Better they go.

Fashion Statement on the 94-B Bus

I'm looking at young people,
thinking how good they look,
when a guy with his pants falling off
and his red and white undershorts showing,
gets on the bus.

I am probably being unfair to the guy with his pants falling off. People mocked what I and my friends wore when we were young. Now, I'm doing the same.

I like the thaw poems best, I think because I'm mocking myself, not other people.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


On April 12th, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin became the first human in space. His remotely controlled Vostok 1 spacecraft lofted him to an altitude of 200 miles and carried him once around planet Earth. Commenting on the first view from space he reported, "The sky is very dark; the Earth is bluish. Everything is seen very clearly". His view could have resembled this image taken in 2003 from the International Space Station. Alan Shepard, the first US astronaut, would not be launched until almost a month later and then on a comparatively short suborbital flight. Born on March 9, 1934, Gagarin was a military pilot before being chosen for the first group of cosmonauts in 1960. As a result of his historic flight he became an international hero and legend. Killed when his MIG jet crashed during a training flight in 1968, Gagarin was given a hero's funeral, his ashes interred in the Kremlin Wall. Twenty years later, on yet another April 12th, in 1981, NASA launched the first space shuttle.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


It was a quiet day on the Sun. The above image shows, however, that even during off days the Sun's surface is a busy place. Shown in ultraviolet light, the relatively cool dark regions have temperatures of thousands of degrees Celsius. Large sunspot group AR 9169 from the last solar cycle is visible as the bright area near the horizon. The bright glowing gas flowing around the sunspots has a temperature of over one million degrees Celsius. The reason for the high temperatures is unknown but thought to be related to the rapidly changing magnetic field loops that channel solar plasma. Large sunspot group AR 9169 moved across the Sun during 2000 September and decayed in a few weeks.