Over the past week, during clear pre-dawn skies, I got a bit obsessed with the trio of Venus, Jupiter, and Mars rising in the east, and have been trying to find a way to take a picture. Not easy, since I’m working with my phone – which has a pretty nice camera, actually, but isn’t geared for long, timed exposures.
This morning, I managed the best shot of the week – not super-impressive, by any means, but I’m happy with it for now:
Venus is the brightest, up there at the top, and Jupiter’s the second-brightest. You have to look just a bit above Jupiter, and ever-so slightly to the right – say, one minute past midnight on a clock face – to see Mars, but it’s there.
So: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Earth (which totally counts because you can see the trees and clouds) – four planets. Why the asterisk in the post title? You’ll have to trust me and Google Sky on this one, but lost in the light saturation needed to capture the planets was a pretty old, rising crescent moon, just above the treetops left of center. And as it happens, Mercury is right alongside that moon:
(Image from EarthSky.org – which has a really nice guide to this month’s morning sky.)
Which means that from a certain point of view, I woke early up this morning was rewarded with the chance to take a picture of more than half our solar system. Which is pretty cool.
About five years ago, I started measuring our heavier snowfalls using the galactically-recognized Giant Vintage Kenner Chewbacca scale.
It’s been a particularly wintry winter here in Northeast Ohio, and I was asked recently how Chewie was faring this season.
Truth is…he quit. Just up and disappeared. Then, this weekend, a friend emails me a link to these pictures on Facebook:
Ah. Looks like Chewie headed for warmer climes.
… and maybe wanted to play tourist.
Oh. Well then. I hope he’s partyyying responsiblyyy.
(Chewie’s confession in the caption: “I don’t remember this.”)
Huge thanks for these pictures to über-talented photo geek extraordinaire Jim Carchidi, who once again goes above and beyond in responding to a nerdy request. He’s put this whole Chewie gallery in a public Facebook gallery, and you should go check out his portfolio, especially if you’re a fan of portraits, concert photography, Bike Week in Daytona, or Star Wars stuff.
This apple tree in our backyard is probably pushing 40 years old – I can’t recall it ever not being here, and my family moved in across the street in mid-1977.
Once, one of my neighbors and I were picking up apples from the ground, plugging firecrackers in them, and hurling them grenade-style into the woods. (Okay: I was the one lighting the fuses on the loaded apples as he cocked his throwing arm back.) Obligatory disclaimer: This was among the many stupid things I did as a kid. If you are a kid, do not do this thing, for it is stupid.
A haiku interlude:
in apples can be such fun:
Beware the quick fuse.
We stopped after one of the apples blew up alongside my friend’s head mid-throw. No real injury, but I’m pretty sure he had apple pulp impacted in his ear canal for a week or so.
It’s a funny, loud memory, and it mixed interestingly with this afternoon’s sunny, tranquil scene:
Outside, it’s been gray and rainy all day.
Not so inside.
I woke up first this morning and got in the shower. Afterward, I went to wake up Kelsey and found that she wasn’t in her room – but she was also nowhere in the house: On my way to the coffee maker, I saw her walking through the backyard in pajamas and rain boots, heading for a rogue patch of daffodils that sprouts up in at the edge of the woods. Then she went around front and found a purple hyacinth with a broken stem. When I unlocked the front door for her, she was only a little disappointed to find that she wasn’t going to completely surprise us with the flowers on the table.
Jenn and Kelsey and I dyed and decorated eggs this afternoon – after K.and I chilled out with a couple of our favorite Doctor Who episodes.
Pretty soon, our table was populated by The Pink Panther,
and this guy,
and a fish,
and this creation that reminds me of Gossamer from the Bugs Bunny cartoons:
and yes, They Might Be Giants fans, an egg with a purple toupee:
I hope your day has been enjoyable and colorful in its own way, too.
We spent most of Tuesday, June 22 at Sea World San Diego for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 YMCA Gymnastics Nationals.
I’ll admit that I’m conflicted sometimes about zoos and aquarium parks: On the one hand, they really are fascinating and educational and offer a chance to see and touch amazing creatures up close that most people never would. On the other, yes, there’s often something sad that sneaks up on me when I stay too long at one habitat or another and watch the animals in their enclosure.
Sea World also strikes childhood happychords because we used to have one within an hour of my house. (Yes, here in OHIO. I was always amazed, living in Florida, at people who said, “Really? But that’s so WEIRD – there’s no SEA in Ohio!” To which I responded, “No kidding – that’s why we needed SEA WORLD.” Having a Sea World within a day’s drive of the ocean itself is what I thought was bizarre.)
So Jenn and Kelsey and Mom and Jeff and I had a good day hanging out and watching a couple shows and just enjoying being in southern California together, and then sharing the later parts of the afternoon with Kelsey’s teammates and their parents after the opening ceremonies.
It was the kind of day where the important moments didn’t necessarily lend themselves to photography – our fun family ride on Atlantis; Kels and her friends gathered poolside to pet stingrays; watching my mom and daughter and a bunch of other North Canton visitors take on the whitewater attraction.
Still, it was a gorgeous, sunny day, and there were some photogenic penguins and polar bears – and you can visit them all here.
I tried to discourage our yard robin from building another nest on our front porch light this year, not out of spite or anything, but because we have cats who occasionally go outside and because we kind of feel bad because Mom Bird & Dad Bird get cranky every time someone uses the front door. (One of them scared the bejeezus out of the UPS guy last week, and I’d be fibbing if I said I wasn’t slightly amused – but so was he, so it was OK.) For several consecutive days this spring, I went outside, found a bit of straw or a twig tucked up there, and took it down.
And then the sneaky featherbombers built a nest overnight while we weren’t looking. Eternal vigilance and all that, I guess.
Anyway, since the day-to-day growth of last year’s second clutch of robins was pretty well-documented, we’ve paid little attention to these, though we can hear them a few times a day when they’re hungry, and occasionally we’ve seen beaks peeking over the rim of the nest hoping for food.
Since it’s probably getting close to time for them to leave, I figured I’d snap one picture for posterity:
Not long after my change in employment earlier this year, I got in touch with GeekDad editor Ken Denmead, who generously ran a couple guest posts I wrote in April and later included me on a very cool invite list, bringing me on board as a full-fledged contributor to the site. I’m incredibly thankful, because a) It’s GeekDad, and How Freaking Awesome; b) I’ve gotten to write pieces I wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to, which inspired some writing I’m proud of.
It has been tremendously neat playing a small role in the site and watching it grow, and one of my resolutions for 2010 is to write more for GeekDad than I did in 2009.
That said, I had a TON of fun with this year’s entries, and while I truly enjoyed many of my shorter blog entries, there are exactly 10 longer GeekDad pieces about which I was most excited and got the most enjoyment out of writing, so Yay for a Ready-Made End-of-Year List! (Cop out: I’m presenting them in chronological order because it’s easiest.)
1) May 6 – Hands-on and Close-up Fun: Penguicon 7.0 . That weekend in May was absolutely one of the highlights of the year, and even the decade, for me. (I did a longer, more personal and detailed post here.)
2) May 21 – Girls Against Girls – Figuring It Out With Bonnie Burton – It’s incredibly difficult to accurately describe how enjoyable this interview was, and the book’s lessons have come in handy more than once in my daughter’s middle school years.
4) June 18 – Review: Swim Ways’ R/C Cyber Ray – Well, we got to play with a nifty toy that was only fun for a little while, but I like the way the review turned out, and who knows, maybe Swim Ways has ironed out the wrinkles by now.
5) June 27 – Nature at Its Closest – With several inches of snow outside needing shoveled, summer seems a long way off. But remembering the clutches of baby robins we got to watch hatch and grow on our front porch does warm the heart. (awwww!)
6) July 9 – 10 Things Parents Should Know About Warehouse 13 – It was a good excuse to stay in and watch some SyFy channel with Kelsey, but the truth is, though we though the premiere was OK, we never watched another episode.
7) July 26 – Bubbles, Zubbles, Toys and Troubles – Although at its heart this is another toy review, I had a blast talking to inventor Tim Kehoe about his 15-year journey from the idea for colored bubbles to the final production this summer.
8) Aug. 13 – Activision’s Science Papa Will Remind You Of Mama’s Cooking – Reviewing video games means PLAYING video games, so it’s not like I was going out of my way or anything. Plus I got to write this: “To draw a 1980s toy parallel, it’s Mighty Men & Monster Maker vs. Fashion Plates all over again.”
9) Sept. 21 – 10 Things Parents Should Know About Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – Kelsey and I had gone to see this just for fun, and I was so surprised that I liked it so much that I jumped at the chance to do the GeekDad write-up.
10) October 6 – Princesses and Mermaids: Who Needs Rescuing Again? – We were introduced to Jim C. Hines and his books at Penguicon, marking yet another reason the trip to Romulus was so memorable.
To circle back to the end of the first paragraph: c) It’s GeekDad, and How Freaking Awesome. Gobs and piles of thanks to Ken, Matt Blum and my fellow contributors and the Wired editors and everyone else I don’t know who makes GeekDad work.
You know what? Ohio’s a pretty nifty place.
Consider – thanks to the various quirks of life that bring people here (and hey, some people even stay!) – that photographer Kyle Cassidy, whose very cool “Where I Write: Fantasy & Science Fiction Authors in Their Creative Spaces” collection dropped my jaw awhile back, has just wrapped up a road trip through the state continuing that photo project.
And his notes and photos from the journey – they’re all worth reading – are a trunkful of “Damn that’s neat.” Stops across the state and visits with C.C. Finlay, Mike Resnick, Stephen Leigh, John Scalzi and Tobias Buckell, and then a swing up to Northeast Ohio for Catherynne M. Valente‘s weekend wedding. (She’s another author I discovered thanks to Penguicon – I absolutely love “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica.”)
Of course, now that I’m all geeked up about how many nifty people are milling around these parts, it just so happens that the Buckeye Book Fair is this Saturday in Wooster – not too far from where Kelsey’s got a gymnastics meet…
Happy Father’s Day: There’s still a fair amount of daylight left.
We went camping this weekend, so I missed a day documenting my semi-adopted trio‘s development. Because we were in a rush Friday morning (June 19), I managed only this lousy picture, forgetting to switch the camera to close-up mode:
I’m including it here for the sake of completeness and because even as blurry as it is, you can still definitely see more of the dark areas where the wing feathers are developing and along their little backbones too. They almost look like, you know, birds.
So we got back today and their mom is clearly sitting higher up in the nest, and I remembered to set the camera in the correct mode, and I got this shot, which is easily my favorite so far:
I was ecstatic at how well this one came out, and honestly, even the largest Flickr version is far smaller than the original and doesn’t quite reveal the level of detail. Here’s a cropped close-up:
The little toe peeking out there; the developing feather tips just emerging – honestly, this is just amazing to me. Less than a week ago, this bird was curled up in a space about the size of the tip joint of my index finger.
It’s now 8:35 p.m. EST on June 21, 2009 and I can still see the sun just over the top of the neighbors’ garage. it will be light for awhile yet, and though I’ve seen a lot of summers pass on this street, right this second, the air smells like grass and lightning bugs and suspended time.
So thanks to this guy at the left, whom I found loitering outside the water dispenser at a local gas station, I learned a new word today: pareidolia. Seeing faces in, say, a jar of peanut butter or an extraterrestrial landscape. Even Lenin in a shower curtain.
Couldn’t find “pareidolia” in my American Heritage Dictionary, though. Not on Merriam-Webster, either. (Although among M-W.com’s suggestions as to what it thinks I meant to type are Parida, La, paradiddle, and, inexplicably, Barred Owl.) Possibly the word is too new and too infrequently used, or maybe even unnecessary.
At any rate, I’ve had fun poking around the examples at Fortean Times, forgetomori and Flickr. Sadly, when I filled our water jugs, I accidentally blotted the guy’s eye out and turned his nose into an exploding cartoon cannon.