Stuff I Found in the Sky Tonight

by wjw on April 25, 2018



No Dreck

by wjw on April 21, 2018

THE EXPANSE -- Season:2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata, Wes Chatham as Amos Burton, Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal, Steven Strait as Earther James Holden -- (Photo by: Kurt Iswarienko/Syfy)

Some days you get lucky, and you turn on the TV and find something you’ve absolutely always wanted to see.

This happened to me on Wednesday, when I watched the second episode of Season Three of The Expanse.

The episode was written by James S.A. Corey themselves, and the climax featured a space battle between Rocinante and a Terran warship.  Which was great, because in The Expanse we have real physics.

When was the last time a series set in space had real physics?  Maybe never.

Here’s how it would play in the average space TV show.

“Increase power to the shields by 45%!  Fire dreckion beam!”  Then the camera gets shaky and the bridge crew throw themselves left and right as near misses explode around them.  And then dreckion saves the day, because the whole show is basically made of dreck.

So what happened in this episode was that Rocinante was maneuvering frantically, and the two crew who weren’t on the bridge were strapped down in another compartment, and then a locker in that compartment burst open and released the ship’s supply of power tools.   So every time Roci maneuvered, the tools changed direction and hurled themselves across the compartment.  Some of the tools were heavy, and some were sharp, and the two guys in that compartment were strapped into couches and couldn’t get out of the way.

Perhaps in this scenario there might be something like a little  suspense, no?

A flying tool then cuts the air supply to one of the two guys, so the other has to unstrap and make his way across the room to help his shipmate.  Now he’s subjected to the same gee forces as the power tools, and if he doesn’t hang on he’ll go flying around the room, too, and even if he does succeed in hanging on the compartment is still full of nasty objects hurling themselves around like a swarm of oversized killer bees.

Great scene.  Killer scene.  And it was a scene I’d always wanted to see, without knowing it.

What followed was that Rocinante survived because of a tactic taken straight from The Sundering.  (Which I am fine with, by the way.  If you’re going to steal, steal from the very best.)

Now I’ve got to figure out a way to steal the power tool scene and get it in the next Praxis book.  Because that would be awesome.


Artificial Reality

by wjw on April 18, 2018

Here’s tonight’s crescent moon, with Venus in the lower right corner.  Venus is red because she’s close to the horizon.

moon_venusThis is actually Photoshopped.  The reason it’s Photoshopped is that my new Canon hardly ever manages to focus properly on a distant object sitting in the sky.  If only I could focus manually . . .

Anyway, I zoomed in on the moon and got a more in-focus view:

IMG_2760You should be able to view the moon’s entire disk, though the dark part is quite faint.  I snipped out the in-focus crescent moon, then after adjusting for size pasted it over the out-of-focus moon on the first photo.

The result is that after working with a highly complex piece of software and creating an artificial image, I now have a picture of what I actually saw in the sky.


News from the North

by wjw on April 17, 2018

Last year’s discovery of a tomb beneath the restored Church of St. Nicholas in Demre, Turkey, may yet produce the body of St. Nick himself, and settle whether Santa is buried in Turkey, or in Ireland (which claims it), or in Italy, where Venice and Bari both claim his body,(or maybe just parts thereof).

But this of course ignores the well-attested fact that St. Nick lives in Korvatunturi, a fell in Finnish Lapland.

LumiLinna_2008_4Home to roaming herds of reindeer and often blanketed in snow, the Korvatunturi fell is believed by many Finns to be the site of Santa’s secret workshop. Although Korvatunturi was only disclosed as the workshop’s location in 1927 (it was revealed on air by radio host Markus Rautio), Finland’s Santa Claus tradition is much older.

Before Christianity came to Finland in the Middle Ages, Finns celebrated Yule, a pagan mid-winter festival marked by an elaborate feast. On St Knut’s Day (13 January), the day many Nordic countries mark the end of the holiday season, nuuttipukki – men dressed in fur jackets, birch bark masks and horns – would go door to door to demand gifts and scrounge for leftover food. The nuuttipukki were evil spirits; if they didn’t get what they wanted, they would make loud noises and scare children.

When the charitable St Nicholas became known in Finland during the 1800s, his image blended with the pre-existing tradition of the masked nuuttipukki to create Joulupukki. Translating to ‘Yule Goat’, Joulupukki handed out gifts instead of demanding them. Unlike Santa Claus who climbs down the chimney, Joulupukki, clad in red robes, would knock on the door and ask “Onko täällä kilttejä lapsia?” (“Are there any well-behaved children here?”). After delivering his gifts, Joulupukki would return to Korvatunturi fell; directly translating to ‘Ear fell’, Korvatunturi is the place Finns believe Joulupukki can hear everything.

And if you don’t believe Markus Rautio, will you believe the United Nations?

In November 2017, Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture approved Joulupukki (or Finnish Santa Claus tradition, as it is known today) to be included in the National Inventory of Living Heritage, a list that is upheld by the National Board of Antiquities as a part of the Unesco Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Unesco has ruled!  The Yule Goat lives in Finland!


Elsewhere in the Northland, an amateur archaeologist and his 13-year-old assistant has found a Viking treasure hoard in Denmark.  This may be the personal treasure of Harald Bluetooth, the 9th Century ruler who united Denmark and was the first Scandinavian king to convert to Christianity.  Harald was overthrown by his son, Sven Forkbeard, and may have had to leave the royal treasury behind and scarper off to Pomerania, where he died and subsequently gave his name to Bluetooth wireless gadgets.

The dates are right for Harald, but even if it isn’t Harald’s hoard, it’s got a kingly sum of over 600 silver coins, along with chains, rings, and a Thor’s hammer.

So clearly the Baltic region is where you need to go for treasure!  Either you can dig it up, or you can get the Yule Goat to give it to you.   It’s all up to you.



Tiny Heads

by wjw on April 14, 2018

Behold!  It is a video of my Guest of Honor interview at last year’s Worldcon 75, conducted by Joshua Bilmes.  The first 20 minutes or so seems to be missing, but don’t worry, we’re just getting to the exciting part!

If you go full-screen, you may be able to actually see me, somewhere in the far distance.


A Toolbox Full of Goodness

April 11, 2018

Taos Toolbox 2018 is full, with 18 talented attendees, plus instructors and speakers Nancy Kress, Walter Jon Williams, Carrie Vaughn, George RR Martin, and EM Tippets. It’s going to be awesome. And there will be plenty of inspiration on offer, because no less than three of the current Nebula nominees are Toolbox veterans: Lawrence M. […]

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Bull Piss and Mummies

April 10, 2018

Would it change the power or poetry of Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway if we learned that the evaporative yellows that infuse the atmosphere with mystical light were wrought from the distilled urine of cows cruelly raised on a diet consisting exclusively of mango leaves? Here Kelly Grovier asks the question: What is great […]

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Miss Jones

April 5, 2018

I’ve finished watching Season Two of Jessica Jones, wherein it was demonstrated that our alcoholic, PTSD-afflicted, short-fused trainwreck of a heroine is by far the sanest person in her family. I mean, wow.  Turn the cray-cray up to 11. The first season had David Tennant as Kilgrave, the creepy stalker who is, basically, the obsessed character […]

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Terran Prize Awarded!

April 2, 2018

The 2018 Terran Prize, founded by George R.R. Martin and consisting of a full tuition scholarship to the Taos Toolbox master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, has been awarded to Joey Yu. Joey Yu was born in Taipei, educated in Vancouver, and now works in Shanghai as a freelance creator.  He is the author […]

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Gucci Does Wild Cards

April 1, 2018

Gucci at Fashion Week?  Totally inspired by Wild Cards. Check it out.  

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