Irma Wasn’t Enough? Here Comes Maria.

As I write this, Hurricane Maria is riding across Dominica and other Caribbean islands, trying to destroy whatever Irma left standing. I cannot imagine what it must be like for the residents of those small islands. Maria has been gaining and losing intensity, in the sense that it’s going back and forth between Category 4 and Category 5. Neither of those is something you want to see coming at you.

Sometime Wednesday, Maria will hit Puerto Rico (the red blob in the center of the storm track). We are of course worried about our friends and the family property in Ponce. The current predicted storm track looks as though it will hit San Juan hardest, but will likely also hit the southern coast of Puerto Rico harder than Irma did. All we can do is wait and pray.

Here’s a stunning and sobering video composition of Irma, Katia, and Jose as seen from a new NOAA weather satellite, GOES-16.

Click to view the video on the NY Times website. Do it. It’s worth it. Be sure to scroll down the page, as there are several video perspectives. These amazing images are from a satellite that’s not yet even fully operational.

Do we really want to cut funding for this kind of science? (The current administration does.) Or are we ready to take seriously the problem of global climate change?

Hurricane Irma, Round Two


Irma Round One (Puerto Rico) left us with gratifying news for our family—friends and neighbors okay, and the house in good shape. We’re still awaiting a detailed report, but word is that the south side of the island didn’t get hit too badly. If there was any damage to the house, we haven’t heard about it yet and it’s unlikely to be serious. We’re keeping an eye on Jose, but it seems to be sheering away.

With that worry down, we turn our attention to Florida, where my brother will be first to feel the effects, near Miami, and then right up the length of the state, where we have family and friends in various locations. Chuck and Youngmee and the dogs are hunkered down in place, having decided that they’re probably as safe in their own house as anywhere on the road or in upstate Florida, given that the whole state is in the hurricane’s crosshairs. The late shift toward the west is good news for them, though not so good for folks on the Gulf Coast. Keeping all appendages crossed, and praying for everyone’s safety!

(Image from National Hurricane Center/NOAA)

When Good Cats Behave Badly

Annoyed kitty, touchy kitty 
Grouchy ball of fur 
Moody kitty, grumpy kitty, 
Grr, grr, grr.*

Our return home was marred by one tiny detail: Moonlight, our beloved 18+ year old cat, had developed an infection in our absence and started using the dining room carpet instead of her litter box. Ugh. Our stalwart housesitter, being new to animal care, knew something was wrong but didn’t know what (not that she could have done much about it, anyway). So we walked in, put our bags down, sniffed the air, and within half an hour were preparing to tear up carpet. We had to throw out about half the carpet in the room. Fortunately, it was a patchwork carpet—pieces of different colors laid down artistically by yours truly. That at least made it easier to take up.

Now—great quantities of Nature’s Miracle, vinegar, and peroxide later—we are engaged in medical treatment and retraining, per excellent advice found on the net.

Just in time to go away again. Jayce and I are off to Miami to help my brother Chuck celebrate his 70th birthday. How can that be possible? We aren’t that long out of school, really! Allysen’s mom is having some medical issues, unfortunately, so Allysen is staying behind this time. And Lexi? She’s in Norway!

*From a GrumpyCats.com t-shirt owned by my daughter.

Last Day in Iceland: Reykjavik

We had already planned to spend the day seeing the city of Reykjavik, and it turned out we had picked the day of a huge annual Culture Festival, a little like our First Night. The parks were full of musicians and people celebrating one way or another, and it also turned out to be a day when nobody minded if you parked on the grass at the edge of the overfull parking area. (Coming from Boston, where that would be an invitation to the tow trucks, it felt like a big boon.)

Here’s a picture of the National Library, which unfortunately was closed.

Across the street was the National Museum of Iceland, which I got no pictures of, but which had a lot of interesting exhibits about the history of Iceland (something I was completely ignorant about). After working our way through that, we set off on foot to see the “grim church”—which was not at all grim, but a magnificent modern cathedral named Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran church with a towering steeple you can go up in for a view of the city. There was a music festival on in the church, as well—unrelated, I think, to the city festival—so we listened for a bit and then went topside for the view.

The fellow on the pedestal in front of the cathedral is Lief Erickson, the statue a gift from the United States, back in the 1930s. I’m not sure what the occasion for the gift was.

Next morning was departure day, with an early drive to Keflavik and the international airport. Their method for handling departures was interesting, to say the least. After working our way through a long duty-free store—I’ve never seen so much chocolate and licorice and booze in my life—we spotted the sign to our gate: 20 minutes walking time away, according to the helpful sign. (They might have mentioned that sooner, I thought.) We sped up. At the end of that race, we found ourselves at the end of a pretty narrow concourse, where people were trying to get on four different flights with the exact same departure time and were gathered in a big scrum. (“Are you in the line for Boston?” “No, this is the line for Dulles.” “Toronto is over there.”) Boarding was via stairs—one last lungful of crisp Iceland air before stepping into a flying canister full of the last flight’s exhalations.

Somehow we made it, though. Four hours later, I was peering down at the Maine coast with its splattering of islands—I had no idea there were so many!—and less than six hours later, we were back in Boston. Home again.

Worldcon 75 Wraps

Worldcon ended on Sunday, and as a way of saying farewell, I thought I would post this picture of the welcome sign.

I had a Kaffeeklatch on Sunday that was well attended, and included attendees of various ages from countries all over the world. They had come to drink coffee and ask me questions, so that meant I did a lot of talking. They all seemed to enjoy it, and I know I did. One local fan (I think he said he was Finnish, but it all blurs) did a little video interview with me afterward. I suppose that might end up on youtube someday.

And here’s a picture of one of the highlights for me in terms of programming I watched from the audience. It’s NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren giving a presentation on space medicine based on his experiences on the International Space Station.

Dr. Lindgren is a wonderfully entertaining speaker, and a gracious ambassador for the space program, based on a brief chat we had in the corridor. He’s also a science fiction fan. (At the Spokane worldcon, he presented one of the Hugo awards via Skype from the space station.)

Here’s a picture of him zipped up in his zero-g sleeping bag. Cozy!

Playing Timpani on the Fourth of July!

Here’s a picture of my daughter Lexi and her friend Connor trying out our new timpani (kettle drums) during our Fourth of July cookout. New timpani? In the back yard? Does this require a little explanation?

Last Sunday, Allysen was scanning our town email list, and she came across an unusual item: Things being discarded during clean-out of old school building, including this, that, and two kettle drums. “Do we want kettle drums?” she asked me. “Why not?” I said, and we hopped into the trusty Ranger to go take a look. Sure enough, two old but serviceable-looking copper kettle drums were beside the dumpster. Soon thereafter, they were in our back yard.

I played snare and bass drum (and clarinet) in my high school marching band, but I haven’t played any kind of drum since then. Maybe it’s not too late! These didn’t come with any sticks or mallets, so I popped into our neighborhood drum store. The owner, having worked with the schools, knew all about these drums. He said they were good ones (if in need of some repair to the base of one), and he made a call to confirm for me that they had indeed been put out for anyone to take. He was sold out of mallets, unfortunately, but the local guitar store had some that would do for now.

And so, for the Fourth of July, I called upon our guests to hum the melody of the theme to 2001, while I expertly (?) played the prominent timpani part: Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. Maybe a new career for me?

Next challenge: See if we can fit them through the door into the basement!

Don’t Tell Anyone!

Can you keep a secret? No—what are you doing?? Didn’t I just say, keep a secret? For God’s sake, don’t share this with anyone! No, stop!

(This is Bizzaro-Jeff. Regular-Jeff is off drinking himself senseless for the holiday or watching reruns of “Spock’s Brain” or I-don’t-know-what. Asleep at the switch, whatever he’s doing. So, I’m having a little fun at his expense…)

You know his book, Neptune Crossing? I just made it free again—everywhere!—and I’m pretty sure he hasn’t noticed! [Cackle—hee-hee—!] Oh, sorry about the drool; I do that sometimes when I get excited.

You know what this means? If you download the Kindle version? You know that audiobook he’s always yammering about, the one narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, who he claims won a Grammy, whatever that is? Well, if you “buy” the Kindle copy, you can get the $24 audiobook for frickin’ $2.99! Do you believe that? $2.99! That’s like, practically, nothing. Oh, they’re going to take a bath on this one, after you all run out and buy it. I can’t wait to hear them shriek!

Go! Do it! Now!  (But remember—don’t frickin’ tell anyone, and don’t share this post!  Now, what’d I just say??? And especially don’t tell D/u/f/u/s/-/J/e/f/f/ Regular-Jeff.)

Why are you still here? Go and get it!

Here he comes! I’m outta’ here!

 

Probing Time!

A colonoscopy without sedation? Not so bad, reports this reporter. Somewhat uncomfortable, yes. But it was pretty interesting to watch on the monitor. And leaving with a clear head? And being able to enjoy a cold one (of whatever kind) later that evening, and not feeling like you’re losing a whole additional day? Yeah, that seems like a good trade-off to me. I’ll probably do the same next time.

Which, sorry to say, will be in just three years. Oh well. I’m healthy.

And now, where’s that pizza?

From the movie Paul:

Larry Predicts a Red Nova in 2022

I was just reading in Astronomy Magazine that astronomers have predicted that a binary pair of stars will merge into one in 2022, and set off an explosion called a red nova, similar to this image of V838 Monocerotis, from the Hubble space telescope. It’ll be as bright as the North Star, and last for up to six months. That’s a pretty striking prediction, and not the sort of prediction astronomers usually make. (More here.) But here’s the thing…

I was most of the way through the article when I went, Wait—who? I scrolled back up to read again, who’s being quoted here. I wasn’t seeing things—it’s Lawrence Molnar of Calvin College in Michigan. Way to go, Larry! Larry Molnar and his wife Cindy are friends from way back, having lived right above us for several years right after Allysen and I got married. We went to the same church; we exchanged babysitting. He was my first consultant on the question of how one could theoretically set off a supernova (From a Changeling Star), and he introduced me to other consultants at Center for Astrophysics at Harvard. We also made a snow dog together (modeled on Sam, our first border collie mix), back in the 1980s.

Larry, Snow-Sam, Jeff

This is cool. I’m going to be watching, Larry, to see if it happens on time.

Curly and Moe were not mentioned as participants in the study.*

*Sorry. That’s the only part of this post that’s an April Fools joke. The rest is real.

1 2 3 4 43