Friday, August 29, 2008
Way back in January of 2007 when everyone was taking those presidential candidate quizzes and there were many more Democratic and Republican candidates I took the 2008 Presidential candidate quiz. My results - Biden/Obama! At the time I just thought the quiz read my IP address and picked the Delaware guy and the popular guy. Now I know that I was extraordinarily prescient and that the quiz just rotated the order.
I also occasionally rag on Biden and his son, but I can think of worse picks for the VP. Biden is also a no-show at Blue rocks games. If nothing else Biden will be exciting to watch since he is such a straight talker, the Republicans even have a Biden gaffe clock. Since Biden is from Delaware I guess this state is sewn up for the election and we still won't have any presidential campaigning. Maybe we will see them on their way to Pennsylvania.
Perhaps now with my early guess of the Obama/Biden ticket I should become a political pundit. I certainly have opinions that I can share with you whether you want to hear them or not. Maybe instead I should just get back to pictures of my backyard and the science fiction I just read.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
This big varmint (groundhog, woodchuck or my favorite, whistlepig) was helpfully eating some leafy weeds in the backyard today only feet away from the Shellpot creek. That would be great except that I think that it is also eating the leaves of the pumpkin and melon plants and might be eating the tomatoes and parsley every so often as well. There are plenty of ready made holes for them to leave in near the creek since the rocks on the creek edge are sometimes undercut which forms a nice burrow.
Two pictures of his sleek coat.
The pictures were taken from the second floor window with my camera all the way zoomed out and then cropped.
Groundhogs are marmots and are in the squirrel family. They are probably most famous for their Day.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
I have so many other opinions about the Olympic this year that it would take many hours to commit them to writing. Turns out many other have made the same observations. To save time I point you to their coverage.
Howard caught the opening games and has been watching many of the unusual (not baseball, or tennis) sports of the games. he even noticed that female saber seems to consist of the women trying to tab each other first and then both turning to the judge with a fist pump thinking they won.
Howard is also impressed with the man made kayak course and the kayakers themselves. He, like the rest of us, hasn't quite grasped the new scoring for gymnastics that doesn't go from 0 to ten anymore. I try to remember that higher is better and that it usually ranges from 14 to 17 for top-level gymnasts.
I thought the opening ceremonies were fantastic, but this guy nit-picked the details for us. For the record, the commentators told us the firework footprints were special effects during the coverage and there really were fireworks footprints in Bejing. Also, only a blind person would think that little girl at the piano was actually singing. I would think that all of those years of Milli-Vanilli and Ashly Simpson would help us realize when someone is lyp syncing, poorly. The commentators also told us that the children representing the ethnic groups were not from the ethnic groups.
Someone else was critiquing the opening ceremony outfits as harshly as we were during the parade of nations. Read the practically country by country critique at Street Carnage, from the worst outfits in the world red flowered print jackets of Hungary to the cool plaid of Antigua and Barbados.
By the way, I hear there is this guy, Michael Phelps, and he is a swimmer going for some sort of record. A neighbor told me of a drinking game his friends had where you must drink everytime his name is mentioned during Olympic coverage and you must down the whole drink left handed everytime they show his mother.
Here the zinnias have finally reached their full puffy bloom stage.
I planted two types of sunflowers, one to grow to 6 ft that has reddish and orangey petals ...
... and one that is supposed to grow to 8 ft and have huge flowers, but hasn't bloomed quite yet.
Neither is really the height I was aiming for, but even 5 ft sunflowers are fun. The birds, especially elusive goldfinches, love the seeds, but I will get to pull little sunflower weeds all next year.
I put it in the sun to dry and then took a picture. It is very scaly and you can see the finer scales on what was the top of the snake and the coarser scales on what was the bottom of the snake. It is pretty long and probably not even the full snake since the snake looks like it would have been 4 inches in circumference or so.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Still like the car. Still haven't reached the first oil change yet. This month the mpg is creeping down to 40mpg, probably due to my heavier foot and increasing impatience with other drivers. I only have driven it back and forth to work, especially lately. I hear that on short trips the car doesnalt warm up enough to get the best gas mileage. The gas engine turns on to assist the electric whether you need it or not in the first moments of driving and then I don't drive it far enough to recoup the losses.
Still, driving fewer miles is seems better then increasing the distance for an extra 5 mpg.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
I have already had someone wish me a Happy Olympics today, so I pass that on to you.
(see you again at 9:00 on 9-9-09)
Thursday, August 07, 2008
These musings were prompted by the novel The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (which coincidentally won the Arthur C. Clarke award, see the Clarke reference below) and its sequel Children of God. In The Sparrow the Jesuits themselves send a mission to another star system when a radio signal reaches Earth revealing an intelligent, technological civilization conveniently close around Alpha Centauri. While the UN debates, the Jesuits just go. The novel is a way for the author to explore First Contact with an alien culture, reflect on the Jesuit's missionary history and point out that what you don't know about an alien culture can kill you. "Things are not always what they seem."
In Children of God, poor Father Sandoz, the protagonist of the first book, returns to Alpha Centauri, less than willingly, and sees the consequences of the previous book played out on the planet. The novel serves as a case study in the sometimes corrosive nature of contact between two dissimilar cultures.
The wikipedia entry on The Sparrow points out that James Blish wrote a novel "A Case of Conscience" in which a main character is also a Jesuit priest joins an expedition to the planet Lithia, a pleasant enough place, but with no concept of God or the afterlife. This forms the basis of tension in the book. The book was expanded in 1958 from a novella written in 1953 and reflects its times in archaic psychology and a dystopian future that is a product of the Cold War mentality of its day. I enjoyed the Cities in Flight series more.
I actually wrote a report for freshman English class in high school (Jesuit high school, of course) about the short story The Star by Arthur C. Clarke. (text) I suppose I thought I was being clever, since the teacher was a Jesuit priest and the main character is a Jesuit priest on a mission to another solar system. The Jesuit explorer and his team discover the ruins of a great civilization destroyed by a supernova thousands of years ago. The main characters faith is shaken as we and he slowly come to realize that the supernova was the Star of Bethlehem.
"God, there were so many stars you could have used. What was the need to give these people to the fire, that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem?"Heady stuff for a high school student, I guess. I should find the paper and see what score I got.
In Manifold: Space Stephen Baxter answers Fermi's paradox with a burst of alien colonization activity flowing over the outer reaches of the Solar system starting with the Von Neuman machine-like Gaijin. The Gaijin don't fly from system to system, they use an ancient interstellar teleportation network. After Reid Malenfant is the first human to travel through the blue ring that is a gate of the network at the edge of the Solar system, others eventually follow. One is a woman priest, Dorothy Chaum (Catholic!) who travels through the blue gateways as an envoy of the Pope and the Vatican. She is qualified to deal with the Gaijin aliens in the novel because they prefer to talk to humans using Latin because of its logical structure. The light speed limit of the gateways and the long trips she takes has her most likely outliving the Catholic church in the novels. This is only hinted at once or twice in the book. She travels after Reid Malenfant to try to save his life because he has to "save the universe".
Baxter also has a Jesuit in (inner) space appear as an illegally created sentient program in the short story Dante Dreams in the collection Phase Space.
What Jesuits in space have I missed?
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The church was definitely an antique. It smelled like several old wooden cabinet antiques that I have.
You can see Mary, Star of the Sea (Stella Maris) at the top of the window.
The red haired woman at the foot of the cross below must be St. Mary Magdalene.