Juicy Chunks O’ Wisdom For Sunday, October 19th

‘Cause the Chiefs and the Kings both won today and I’m all relaxed and sports-ed out, that’s why.

  • The results of yesterday’s “research project“? First, the margarita was quite good. It was the first time that I had tried the pre-mixed stuff that you simply pour over ice. Maybe not quite as good as making them “from scratch,” but not bad at all.
  • In case you didn’t notice, there was a comet that came thiiiiiis close to Mars earlier today. From Earth and from Earth orbit (where the Hubble Space Telescope and other telescopes are) it was a unique event. From Mars orbit (where there are five orbiting spacecraft from NASA, ESA, and the Indian space agency) and from the surface of Mars (where Curiosity and Opportunity are exploring), it should have been spectacular. All of our orbiting spacecraft have reported in as safe and unharmed from any impacts with dust, ice, or debris from the comet. It will take a few days to download the data and photos, but keep and eye open, there may be some amazing things coming.
  • For Halloween this year, we’ll be taking the telescopes out as we do, offering kids (and their parents) a look at some of the brighter objects.
  • Secondly, the cookies & cream ice cream was wonderful. The hard stuff, the real Dryer’s full-of-fat-and-lining-my-arteries-as-I-eat-it brand, none of this “reduced fat” or “fat free” crap.
  • Speaking of amazing views of comets, the European Rosetta spacecraft has been getting closer and closer to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko for months now. In about ten days it will release the Philae lander, which will try to make the first soft landing on a comet, where it should send back data for at least a few days. After that the batteries will be discharged, but if we’re lucky and the solar panels can keep recharging the batteries, we could get data for months. Keep an eye out for some mind-boggling images there.
  • There’s something in the pine trees out in back. I could hear it last night, and so could Joey and Jessie. I went out and looked, but never saw it. But from the sound, it’s good sized, not just a squirrel or two. On a related note, something’s back walking around on my roof at night. I figured Rocky and/or Raquel, but either I’ve forgotten how loud it can be when they’re walking around or they’ve grown quite a bit. Or it could be something bigger than a raccoon?
  • Third, while each was excellent in their own right, combined they were marginal at best. The margarita seemed much too tangy and bitter when drunk immediately after a bite of ice cream. Thank goodness I didn’t take The Long-Suffering Wife’s suggestion of pouring the margarita over the ice cream.
  • The Philea lander has a camera which is separate from the cameras on the Rosetta “mothership.” This allowed it to take a selfie of Rosetta with Comet 67P only 16 km away. Wow!
  • The leading candidates for the tree critter: Raccoon, opossum, owl, mutant tree-climbing bunny rabbit, cougar, bear, E.T.
  • Finally, next time it would be best to do the before-bed chores (locking up the house, doing the dishes, cleaning the cat boxes, and so on) before having the margarita, not after. A relaxed, mellow, fuzzy state of mind does not lend itself to thoughts of, “Crap, I’ve still got to clean the cat boxes!”
  • Final astronomical heads up for the week is a partial solar eclipse this Thursday, October 23rd. The areas of visibility are pretty much the same as the total lunar eclipse on October 8th — the two eclipses are related. (Celestial mechanics and all of that sort of thing.) Go look at it if you have the chance, maybe even try to photograph it, but above all, BE SAFE WHEN LOOKING AT THE SUN. (Pop Quiz Redux — What should you never, EVER do because it really, REALLY will make you go blind?) There are ways to do it simply and cheaply (i.e., pinhole projection or a $2 “eclipse filter”), but doing it wrong can lead you to a world of hurt. Be safe, enjoy the sight!
  • November 1st is just thirteen days away, which means…NaNoWriMo. Should I, or shouldn’t I? Any suggestions for a plot, genre, or style you would like to see me tackle?

Remember, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro!”

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Filed under Astronomy, Critters, Juicy Chunks, Space, Writing

A Research Question

It’s been a long, long day to end a long, long week, leaving me wondering about one of the great questions of the universe:

Do margaritas go well with cookies & cream ice cream?

Inquiring minds want to know. For those of you without margaritas or cookies & cream ice cream, here are some calming, soothing photos of clouds.

Namaste.

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The Day The Murph-Dog Met The Murph-Cat

Back in the days before I became an Old Fart, when I was just a Young Fart, before I met The Long-Suffering Wife, before the kids, before The First Wife, when I was in college, I had a cat. I probably shouldn’t have had a cat, since I was a starving college kid in a tiny apartment and I between work and school and work and homework I was just a bit busy. But a neighbor had a litter, I looked at them and picked out the slow, dimwitted one, and named him Murphy because he was always in trouble. Then I got into a different apartment for the last two years of college, and Murphy went to live with my parents for the duration.

After graduating college and getting married, there was a period when The First Wife and I rented her parent’s house to live in. Part of the deal was that we also inherited the family dog, who was also named Murphy. In this case, it was because they had gotten her from a family named Murphy, so it was “Murphy’s dog,” which got shortened.

On moving into the house, all was chaos, as moving often is, especially in the initial combining of two collections of stuff. There were boxes everywhere, furniture in various states of reassembly, piles of stuff that may still be sitting in my garage to this day, unknown and unknowable. Into this environment I retrieved my cat.

In order to avoid too much confusion, immediately the two creatures became known as MurphCat and MurphDog.

The MurphCat was a tiny, skittish critter who had only ever known my apartment and my parent’s house. Bringing her into the chaos caused her to find a safe, dark, hidey hole from which she would come out only when all was quiet, to eat the food we kept putting out for her. Once in a while I would hear her so I knew she was alive around there somewhere, but she wasn’t coming out to face this new reality any time soon.

The MurphDog was an old, old beagle-ish short of dog who was possibly the most friendly and easy-going canine in the history of the planet. It didn’t matter if you had seen her every day of her life or if you were a total stranger, if you would pet her or feed her (even better!) she would sit at your feet and soak it up for hours. She was having a good time with the chaos. Lots of new things to sniff and play with.

The first full weekend after we moved it was a roaster, up in the 90’s at least. My priority task, like it or not, was to tackle the back yard which had been neglected for months and was now waist high. The First Wife was off on some errand or another, so grabbed my machete, lawn mower, and bug spray and dove into the task.

Two hours or so later, sweating like a pig, sunburned, dehydrated, wearing only shorts and about to drop, I let the MurphDog out to check out the work. I got something to drink and, with no furniture yet to sit on in the living room, lay down on the carpet in front of the television to watch the ballgame and recuperate. Needless to say, I was asleep in five minutes.

As the house was now quiet, the MurphCat came out of her hiding spot to look around. The only familiar thing she found was me. She took the chance and curled up on my chest to fall asleep herself.

What a peaceful scene.

Which brings us to The First Wife coming home, oblivious to my position or condition in the living room. She sees the MurphDog sitting out on the back porch, wanting to come in, so she opens the screen. MurphDog goes exploring and finds me and the MurphCat.

Friendly dog. Loving dog. Curious dog. She knew that the MurphCat was around, her nose still worked just fine, but she hadn’t been properly introduced. Here was her chance!

The MurphDog padded over, stuck her nose about 2mm from MurphCat’s sleeping nose and quietly said, “Whooof??”

The MurphCat opened her eyes only to see the most humongous, terrifying, slavering, drooling beast in the world, no doubt about to eat her in one gulp!! She extended all eighteen razor sharp claws and dug in hard for maximum acceleration, going from zero to 9,000 mph in just under two seconds. Unfortunately, her navigation was a little off and she slammed into the leg of the kitchen table about five feet away, then started staggering around the kitchen in a daze.

I awoke suddenly to find my chest ripped open, heart surgery without benefit of anesthesia. From dreamland to intense pain in a fraction of a second, I made it to my knees before I started howling. There may have been some bad words said. Loudly. In Klingon.

The First Wife started laughing hysterically, laughing so hard that she literally could not stay on her feet. It’s a good thing that I come from a people that clot and coagulate well or I could have bled to death before she would have been able to call 911 or help.

The MurphDog just sat there, observing this all dispassionately, wondering what all the fuss was about. After all, she just wanted to say hello to her new housemate. What had happened?

In the end, the MurphCat recovered whatever senses she had and was none the worse for the self-imposed concussion. The MurphDog and The MurphCat became great friends. The First Wife finally caught her breath and figured out what had happened. I eventually healed, although to this day you can still see eighteen thin, horizontal scars across my chest. It became one of those family stories that gets laughed at every now and then. And my mother-in-law bought me this T-shirt:

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Nope. Still not funny.

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Filed under Cats, Dogs, Family, Paul

Flash Fiction: Calling Card

This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge goes off on a completely new tangent. It’s harvest time in the “Pennsyltucky” area where Chuck Wendig lives and he has a thing for odd and unusual varieties of apples. I share his appreciation for apples other than the standard Red Delicious, although not his disdain for actual Red Delicious apples. I’ll try to get other varieties when they’re available — this fall I’ve had Jazz, Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji, and the Cripps Pinks that are in the kitchen right now.

But I digress. As the picture on TerribleMinds shows, there were forty varieties available at a local farmer’s market in Chuck’s neighborhood. Most of the varieties have unusual names. Our task was to pick three and use them in some way in our story. They could be character names, places, whatever.

I used a random number generator, which gave me 19, 6, and 2. My three apple variety names are “Orleans Reinette,” “Davenport Russet,” and “Nutmeg.” Which sounded to me like one of these, a that, and a this, which fell together like this:

CALLING CARD

It was raining, raining as it only does in LA after one of those dry spells they said would last six months but instead pounded us for six years. It spit, it drizzled, it built up to a torrential mist, then when you were ready to give up on actually using your wipers, it would turn into a frog-drowner for five minutes. In the distance there was a low rumble that might have been thunder, but might have just been a 707 sliding down into LAX through they grey overcast.

I took refuge from the gloom in a place even gloomier. The C’est Pool had been come into the world as a dive. From there it had been all downhill, paralleling the collapse of civilization on the local neighborhood. Elections were coming, a councilman was on the warpath, and the local cops were on a mission to clean up the area. It must be working — no one had been knifed or shot in the Pool in over a month.

Teddy was behind the bar, with his nose in a book as usual. He was taking classes to learn how to be a “real” bartender, his head stuffed with fantasies of bartending gigs at the Playboy Mansion, making fru-fru cocktails for naked babes. He looked up as I came in and grinned.

“Hey, DJ! You wanna try something new? I’ve got just the thing for you.”

I knew better than to try one of Teddy’s experiments. “What’s this one called, Teddy?”

“They call it an ‘Orleans Reinette.’ Last night we practiced highball drinks, I thought this one had a nice taste. So I got all of the ingredients on my way in this morning. Let me make one for you!”

This was a bad idea trying to grow into a death wish. “What’s in it, Teddy?”

“It’s vodka, lemon, Aspen, and a dash of nutmeg.”

I suddenly regretted eating breakfast. “Aspen? What’s that?”

“It’s that new apple-flavored soda pop. The mixture of it with the nutmeg gives it a taste like Christmas while the vodka kicks you in the gut.”

Yep, there’s a sign from God. That sounded a lot like my usual Christmas. “Okay, do this. Make one for me, but hold the Aspen, the lemon, the nutmeg, and the vodka. Add in a cold beer.”

Teddy’s lips moved as he did the math, then his face fell as he figured it out. I just stared at him, so he sighed, reached into the fridge, and set the cold bottle in front of me. As I pried the top off, he snapped his fingers and turned back toward the cash register.

“Some guy was in here asking for you. He left his card, said it was important.” Teddy turned back to me, holding the card out.

I took it and gave a quick glance. “Davenport Russet – Attorney.”  In gold letters there was an address high up in one of the new skyscrapers in Century City. I already hated the guy. The card got crumpled up as my hand voluntarily spasmed. I hit the waste basket behind the bar with one shot. Not bad for this time of day.

There was a flash of flame in the waste basket. Suddenly Teddy was turning back to me, holding out a business card.

“Some guy was in here asking for you. He left his card, wrote a note on it, said it was important.”

I sat there staring at Teddy for several seconds, running through my memories of recent reality. When had Teddy turned away from me? Didn’t we just do this? If this was déjà vu, it was one hell of a case of it.

Teddy seemed to have noticed nothing. He just stood there, growing more puzzled by the second when I just sat there slack-jawed, staring at him. I decided to reach out and take the card.

“Davenport Russet – Attorney.” There was something written on the back. I could feel it, but I was not going to turn the card over and read it. Another quick crumple, another quick toss, another nothing but net.

Flash! “Some guy was in here asking for you. He left his card, wrote a note on it, said I had to make sure you read it, said it was important,” Teddy said innocently, turning back to me and holding out a card.

This time I didn’t stare, but I was very cautious when I took the card. It seemed to be ordinary paper, nothing unusual. It featured an embossed logo of some kind, nice engraved printing, an address, a phone number, and “Davenport Russet – Attorney.”

I slowly turned the card over and saw something scrawled in red ink. At least, I was praying it was red ink. “Drink the Orleans Reinette,” was barely legible, in a handwritten font that would have been at home in “The Exorcist.”

The hell with that.

I put the card down on the bar with the message side hidden. I stood up quickly, dropped a fiver on the bar for the beer, and sprinted for the door. Perhaps a walk in the rain would clear my head. A walk to San Francisco should do the trick.

Outside, we were back at the “mist” setting, which turned to “monsoon” before I got five steps from the door. I had the green light, so I headed across the street, only to watch the light turn straight to red while I was in the middle. A truck that hadn’t been there two seconds ago came barreling through from my right, nearly pulping me. I made it to the sidewalk, drenched and terrified.

Shivering in the freezing rain, I shoved my hands into my coat pockets for warmth. In the one pocket I could feel a business card. I would have sworn that pocket had been empty. Trembling from more than the cold, I pulled the card out.

“Davenport Russet – Attorney.”

A bolt of lightning struck somewhere very close, the accompanying peal of thunder rattling the windows and setting off car alarms up and down the street.

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Filed under Los Angeles, Science Fiction, Writing

Kyoto (Part Eleven)

To Recap: In May, 2012 I went to Asia on the “Three-Countries-Three-Weeks-Three-Kids” tour. The first stop on this once-in-a-lifetime trip was Shanghai, followed by several days in Seoul. Now I was footloose and fancy-free (i.e., lost a lot) in Kyoto, Japan. I found one of the most beautiful and interesting places I’ve ever seen — just search for “Kyoto (Part Two)” through “Kyoto (Part Nine)“. (Yeah, that’s a lot of pictures of one place.)  The next day my daughter didn’t have classes so she started showing me the other sights of Kyoto.

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The next site we visited was the Nanzen-Ji Temple.

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The main temple building is huge and beautiful. You can climb up a very, very steep staircase (almost a ladder) to get to the upper level.

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From the upper level you get great views of the other temple buildings in the forest, and the main, modern city off in the distance.

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The main room of the temple, apparently still in use as a part of the Rinzai school, one of the three Zen sects in Japanese Buddhism.

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There were several of these gardens, immaculately maintained. Again, as with Konchi-in Temple, one of these gardens was laid out by Enshu Kobori in the early 1600s.

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Nanzen-Ji Temple was founded in 1291. While the Europeans were building cathedrals (and surviving the Dark Ages), the Japanese were designing and building places like this.

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Some of the vegetation was familiar to someone from North America, much of it was not. All of it was extremely green and lush, especially to someone from Los Angeles.

 

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Ponds, gardens, places for meditation, places for rest and thought, all beautiful.

IMG_4016 smallFinally, I was fascinated by this gardener. The area being maintained was covered with moss, so thin that it would make most putting greens look overgrown, yet he (or she, couldn’t tell) were taking care of it inch by inch, like it was one humongous, living piece of art. Which I guess it was.

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Sunset November 14th

We don’t always get clouds in LA and that whole “drought”-thing isn’t helping. But occasionally, if we get a “storm” moving in (we’re expecting torrential drizzle tomorrow morning) we can get a nice sunset. Tonight was one of those nights.

I was inside and had no idea it was going on, until I happened to look outside and see it looking like we were inside of a pink neon tube. Sure enough!

Now if we could just get something more than an inundating mist tomorrow – we could really use the water!

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Jessie Checking Her PeeMail

In the interest of equal time, here are some pictures of Jessie today. She’s getting on in years and sometimes doesn’t move as quickly as she used to, but at least there are no evil, nefarious plans behind that doggy grin. Unless of course she gets a chance to lie about having had dinner or treats yet. Then all bets are off.

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