The Humdrum Universe

Inner Solar SystemWhile reading through the morning headlines on my rss aggregator, I came across this heading on Space.com: Moon to Cross a Star – For the third time this year, the Moon will occult Antares. (For those of you who don’t know what occulting is in astronomical terms, it means that one stellar object will pass in front of the other and block its light). And I read that headline and new instantly why most people don’t give a frog’s arse about the unexplored vistas above us. Who the hell wants to bother about the third occulting of a non-descript little star (besides the astronomer/geeks among us who of course might know the difference between a Plossl and a Schmidt-Cassegrain, myself included). If you want to get people into space, to get people to look up at the heavens and say something else besides, “Wow, they’re really far away,” then you must inspire.

Years ago I pointed up at the sky and explained to a friend the basic premise of the universe, how it all exploded some 14 billion years ago, has been cooling and swirling ever since, forming stars and galaxies, and how each pinprick of light could swallow the earth thousands of times, and how their light takes thousands, sometimes millions of years to arrive at our eyes. And he said, “Makes you feel really small.” And for some reason this angered me, and I responded, “How does this make you feel small? In all this vastness, in all this swirling chaos, the universe still conspired to make you and me.” Now, of course, it didn’t come across as eloquent when I first said it (and we may have been inebriated as well), but I remember my friend still didn’t see it from my point of view.

Deep Impact Hits CometNow, this picture is what gets me excited: slamming a projectile into a comet travelling thousands of miles per hour just to see what nice particles get ejected from the mash. And I like to remind people as often as I can that we have not just one, but two rovers exploring Mars right now, each roaming for more than 18 months on a planet 40 million miles away. Try running your RC car for more than twenty minutes! Not to mention the Mars Odyssey, the Mars Global Surveyor, and the Mars Express, all orbiting Mars this very instant. We’ve got a probe called Cassini making rings around Saturn that sent its own probe deep into Titan. And I just love this animation of Cassini flying by Saturn’s moon, Hyperion. And all this is going on while I drink my coffee! The universe may be huge, but to me, that’s what makes it exciting, because that means there is that much more out there to explore.

Ride the Naugy!

Ride the Naugy!Among the bits of wonderful things I picked up at ReaderCon (or on my way there) was this odd little pamphlet petitioning me to “Ride the Naugy!” I can just imagine a little kid roaming around a park with his mother and having a gray old man come up to him and say, “Hey kid, have you ridden the Naugy yet?” The poor mother would never know. So as a public service announcement, I’m putting the flyer here.

All-Star Zeppelin Adventure StoriesPaul M. Berger, of our AlteredFluid writers’ group, has just discovered in Gardner Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction that he received an honorable mention for his story, “Voice of the Hurricane”, in the wonderful anthology All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories. Mr. Dozois lists Paul by name in the introduction. Way to go Paul!

And if you’re a Battlestar Galactica fan, these pictures might get you excited. (Mild spoiler warning). The series restarts tomorrow, and while I don’t have cable, I am eagerly awaiting this new season. Now I just have to get someone to record the episodes for me.

It’s a Gas Gas Gas

Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUVSome of the most annoying commercials on television are car commercials. What I often see are SUVs traipsing through green wildernesses that true drivers will seldom see, or more often, a bleak, apocalyptic landscape of charchoal and gray, as if the auto manufacturers are readily promoting the destruction of the environment. Well, not so, says Ford Motor Company, who to much acclaim has recently released (shown at left) its Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUV. And while the Mariner boasts 33 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on the highway, it’s still not much compared to the Honda Insight which boasts 66 mpg with a manual transmission. Still, it’s a start. I particularly like this quote from the Sierra Club’s article: “The technology exists today to make all vehicles average 40 miles per gallon within ten years. Taking this step would save more oil than the United States currently imports from the entire Persian Gulf or could ever take out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, combined.” My belief: fuel economy before drilling. Imagine New York City, free from the ubiquitous pollution and soot that seems to cover all. That is possible, but only if consumers make wise choices.

Shuttle AstronautsOnly three hours before the Return To Flight Space Shuttle Launch. What interested me most of all was the woman commander, Eileen Collins. It’s a wonderful thing to know that a woman is representing the US and the world on a mission that exemplifies what I believe true Americanism is: intelligence, spirit, adventure., & an inability to accept limitations. I haven’t done this in many years, but I’m going to be following this launch live from NASA’s webcast. As the Cape Canaveral folks like to say, “Good luck, and Godspeed!”

Queue You

AlchemyFor some reason or other I’ve gotten into the habit of reading things in queues. In my mind I say, “okay after this book, I’ll read this one, and then this…” And for some reason if I break that order I feel guilty or frustrated or otherwise confused. My current order is something like this: I’m reading The Dubliners by Joyce now. After that it’s going to be Issue #33 of Not One of Us, followed by Alchemy (Seen at left. these were given away free at Readercon, which I find spectacular), then it’s Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Telling, which I also bought at Readercon. Then there’s the much anticipated Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link. I forgot to have Kelly sign her story “Stone Animals” which will appear in The Best American Short Stories. After that it’s the latest Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristelet (#16) and then I can finally get back to finishing my collection of Poe stories. But I suspect that won’t be for a while.

Jello!What would be a better housewarming gift than a nice bowl of Jello? Seen at right is a scan from my latest Jello suggestion book, The New Joys of Jell-O which was the much anticpated sequel to The Joys of Jell-O, also in my collection. I’ll probably read this one after Poe.

In other news, the space shuttle will be launching again after a two year hiatus. We wish them the best of luck, safety, and speed. And, while we’re talking about space, check out this picture of the Trapezium. I know it’s false color, but it just reeks of beauty.

Finally, I would be remiss to not mention and thank heartily, Drew Morse and John Benson, publisher of Not One of Us for selling Sybil’s Garage at their dealer table. Many thanks!

The Post Readercon Post

Food and BooksEven though I had little to no sleep all weekend, somehow I could not get to bed last night until near 2am. I think the post ReaderCon euphoria kept me buzzing all night. Seen at left are me (Matthew Kressel), Devin J. Poore, Fred Cataldo, Ajit George, and Mercurio D. Rivera. Paul Berger took the picture yet again. The restuarant behind us is called the Travelers’ Restaurant, and if you’ve never been there, you might want to give it a try (1257 Buckley Hwy right off I-84 and the CT/MA border). While the food is nothing to rave about (I enjoyed my chicken cordon bleu) the main attraction is the three free books you get to take home from their shelves upon leaving. I chose The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Lonesome Dove, and a book about The New Joys of Jello. I was very happy with my selection.

Devin and his BeerDevin J. Poore in this picture proves that one can never have enough beer at a Con. We devoured many.

FrustratedHere’s me and Mercurio frustrated Saturday night during a difficult game of Mafia. I’m a terrible liar, and because I was so excited when I was previously a “villager”, when the luck of the draw made me a mobster, I stumbled and fell, and ultimately slept with the fishes. Mercurio, unfortunately, was falsely accused and sentenced to death as well. Don’t we look chipper?

Paul TremblayHere’s Paul Tremblay again, reading from his new collection Compositions for the Young and Old. I liked the story, about a zombified resurrection of Mark Twain, very much. Paul’s a super nice guy too.

Altered Fluid PanelFinally, I thought I’d show once of the few pictures where we’re not frowning, sulking, drunk, or frustrated. Shown are me, Paul M. Berger, and Devin J. Poore. All in all it was a long, but ultimately rewarding weekend, and all of us are greatful for the experience we had there.

And on a brief, quick, & personal note, I read this review of one of my recent publications, which made me quite happy. The link to the story is broken for some reason, but you can read it here.