Flash Fiction: {Script|Horror|Spam}

Again this week our Flash Fiction Challenge goes off in a new an interesting direction. Inspired by the fact that we’re always being inundated with spam in our email inboxes and the comments sections of our blogs, and given the fact that Halloween is coming up, we’ve been challenged to write a horror story in the form of some sort of spam message. The programming background far in my past took over.


{You have|You’ve} been {surfing|browsing|waste time} online more than {three|3|666|69} {hours|eons|weeks|millenias} today, yet I never found any interesting article like this. {It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me. I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting. In my {situation|Problem|damnation} my view, if all {webmasters|demons|monsters|succubus} and bloggers made good content as you, the {Pit|Hell|nether regions} will be {much|a lot} more {blissful|wonderful|special} painful than ever before.

{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make some plans for {the future|torture|eternal damnation} and {it is|it’s} time to be happy. {I have|I’ve} read this post and if we could I {demand|command you|desire} to suggest you {few|some|infinitely recursive} interesting things or {advice|suggestions|tips|terrorist demands}. {Perhaps|Maybe} you {could|can} write next {articles|curses|magic spells} referring to this article. I {lust|wish|desire} to read {more|even more} things about your imminent {death|disembowelment|dismemberment|demise}!

I am sure your {article|post|screed|rant|paragraph} has touched all the internet {users|trolls|simpletons|visitors}, its really really {nice|arousing|sensual|fastidious} {sermon|appeal|recruiting} on building up new {servants|worshipers|sacrificial|supplicants} for our {Lord|Master} {Satan|Lucifer|Beelzebub|Antichrist}.

Wow, this {article|post|propaganda|trolling} is {appealing|deceptive|tempting}, my {innocent|younger|virgin|slutty} sister is analyzing {such|these|many} things, {searching|looking|yearning} for {carnal|sexual|perverse} {pleasure|excitement|arousal} {so|thus|therefore} I am going to {tell|inform|let know|convey} her. She {will|wants to|must} be a {perfect|wonderful|tender|innocent} {offering|sacrifice} for your next {Black Mass|orgy|saturnalia}.

With your {interest|fascination|obsession} of the {study|worship|perfection} relating to the {Dark Arts|Satan|damnation} we are sure your {blog|site|RRS feed} can soon {allow|permit|let} me {realize|recognize|understand|recognize|know} {so|in order|what} that many others {may just|may|could} be {subscribe|sacrificed|damned|devoured}.

Please {keep|continue to|advance} writing as you are, {much|most|all} of the {scum|slime|sheep} that is now {humanity|internet users|the world} will soon be at your {feet|command|beck & call} so that {Armageddon|the End Times|Ragnarök} will {commence|be at hand|come to pass} and you will {reap|enjoy|receive} the {pain|suffering|damnation} which you have been {seeking|earning|deserving}!

Thanks. {Saved as a favorite|bookmarked!!}! {LOL|TTFN|BRB}!!



Filed under Computers, Science Fiction, Writing

Partial Solar Eclipse Of October 23rd

(Note, I know today’s normally “Flash Fiction Thursday.” If I can get something written quickly tomorrow, I’ll try to get it posted by the 1200EDT/0900PDT “deadline.” If not, I’ll post it tomorrow after the “deadline,” because the Flash Fiction structure is sort of like Drew Carey’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” where “everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.”)

As predicted, celestial mechanics carried our planet, our moon, and our primary star into alignment today. As advertised, I was there with a camera rig cobbled together with duct tape and baling wire. If it was good enough for the moon fifteen days ago, it’s good enough for the sun.

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14:10 PDT, two minutes before the start of the eclipse. As you can see, my fooling around with the $2 solar film card duct taped in front of the lens didn’t improve the resolution a ton, but maybe a bit from yesterday. The huge sunspot is clearly visible even with this simple rig.

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14:12 PDT, first contact.

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14:28 PDT. I was at the CAF hanger trying to get some work finished up, and running out to the car every fifteen minutes or so to pull the tripod and camera out of the car, line it up, take a quick set of pictures, put it all away, and then running back in to get some more work done. In other words, a normal day.

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14:40 PDT. Even shooting thorough a sheet of silvered mylar, most of these pictures are taken at 1/2000 second. The sun is really freakin’ bright! (Thank you, Captain Obvious!)

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15:00 PDT, as I was packing up to leave the CAF and head to another meeting.

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15:26 PDT, maximum coverage as seen here in Southern California. I was only halfway to that next meeting, but pulled off the freeway, found the first parking lot I could, and set up again with about a minute to spare before shooting this.

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15:33 PDT, still in some random parking lot off of the 101 Freeway. Time to get moving again, they’re starting to look at me funny from the windows of the office building where I pulled in. In other words, a normal day.

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15:58, in the parking lot outside of where my meeting is.

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16:04 PDT, what I figured would be my last pictures of the day due to that 16:00 meeting.

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16:15 PDT, people at my meeting wanted to see too, so it’s quickly back to out to the parking lot, set up the rig, let others take a look, shoot off a last set of pictures, tear down and stow the rig in the car, and back to the meeting.

The eclipse would last for another twenty-four minutes from this point, but that was it for me. I hope you got to see it (SAFELY!) wherever you were at, or at least got a chance to watch the feed from Griffith Observatory that NASA-TV was showing.

If you got pictures, feel free to share them in the comments!

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Filed under Astronomy, CAF, Photography, Space

Huge Sunspot Posing For Tomorrow’s Partial Solar Eclipse

You may have heard (like here where I ranted about it last week) that there’s a partial solar eclipse tomorrow afternoon. As always, BE SAFE WHEN LOOKING AT THE SUN, but beyond that, the short version is that the further north and west you are in North America, the more of the sun you’ll see covered. There’s an excellent map here that shows coverage for tomorrow. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, here’s a great graphic from Griffith Observatory showing what to expect and the times:


(Graphic credit: Griffith Observatory)

To make it even better, as we speak there’s a honkin’ HUGE spotspot facing us. It’s shooting off some major flares so there are some great aurora at night if you’re in Canada, Scandanavia, Russia, or even the northern tier of US states.

This thing is so big that it can clearly be seen with the naked eye IF YOU’RE BEING SAFE WHILE LOOKING. (You think there’s an underriding theme here, huh?) If you’ve got a solar filter (you can get cheap plastic/mylar ones for a dollar or two at many camera shops, or online, it’s easy to see. If you catch the sun just as it’s rising or setting and the atmosphere is cutting down its light to the point where it’s safe to look at, you should see it clearly.

And, of course, if you’ve got your solar filter already taped onto your camera because you’re going to be taking pictures of tomorrow’s partial solar eclipse, then you can pop out into the front yard for five minutes and see if it’s all working.

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It’s working, given a broad definition for the term “working.” I might have to see if there’s anything I can do (besides spending a couple hundred dollars that I don’t have right now for an optically flat silvered glass solar filter for my Meade ETX-125 telescope) to cut down on the distortion of fine details that the solar filter causes. It’s basically just a piece of coated mylar film in a cardboard holder, duct taped onto the lens shield in front of the lens. This setup is great for showing things like a partial eclipse where all you’re looking for is a chunk of the sun’s disk missing. For anything that requires better optical qualities, well, that’s why the telescope filters are a couple hundred dollars and the mylar in a piece of cardboard is $2.

Just so you can see what this sunspot looks like in a professional telescope, with an image of the Earth superimposed for scale:


Courtesy of SOHO/MDI consortium. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Just curious – you’re going to BE SAFE while looking tomorrow, aren’t you?

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

Panorama: Las Cruces, New Mexico

A favorite place of mine in the desert southwest is the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico. I’ve been through there several times on cross country trips (I-10 goes right through it) and I went to a wonderful conference there about five years ago.

Coming from the west (i.e., Los Angeles and Phoenix) a dozen miles or so out of town you come over a ridge onto a long downgrade with the whole town laid out before you. About halfway down, there’s a rest stop, where you can get a marvelous view of the city and surrounding areas. (Going west and climbing up this grade in 1980 I looked back and saw the whole valley filled with a thunderstorm and a brilliant rainbow — but no pictures taken, just a fabulous, colorful memory.)

This panoramic picture was taken in May, 2010. (Click to enlarge.) I was on my way from Los Angeles to Mississippi to deliver my son’s truck to him so he could use it while he was stationed in Keesler Air Force Base for a few weeks.

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This panorama comes from twenty-six images of 2304 x 3456 pixels (8 megapixels each) taken with a Canon Rebel XT DSLR, combined into an image of 29418 x 3413 pixels (100.4 megapixels). With nothing in the immediate foreground (especially nothing moving) to confuse the stitching software and a lot of big, high-quality images with lots of overlap at the edges, the result is a really, really nice panorama covering about 200°. Blow it up on your screen, look at the Mesilla Valley full of farmland, the Organ Mountains off in the distance (declared a National Monument in May, 2014), the Rio Grande running through it all.

This is good, but if you want to see fantastic, a real out of this world panorama, both in terms of quality and location (literally), take a look at the latest from the Opportunity rover on Mars! Not bad for a robot that’s now in its 3,923rd day of its 90-day mission.


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Filed under Astronomy, Family, Panorama, Photography, Space, Travel

Pictures Not Taken At An Airshow

“Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.” Attributed often to Groucho Marx, but actually comes from an early AI computer experiment in the 1960’s. As with so many things, the urban myth is so much better than the truth.

Regardless, today time has flown like an arrow. I got wrapped up in surfing job postings and submitting online applications, and all of a sudden noticed that it’s way past my bedtime — with no pearls of wisdom flung out yet today into the blogosphere. (Yeah, it’s a stupid term, but it’s mostly harmless. Given some of the incredibly stupid things going on that are actually killing folks, I can give a pass to ‘blogosphere.’ Sorry, really tired, rambling aimlessly. Will stop now. Really. Now.)

So here are a couple of pictures that I found that look like they’re from an air show, but they’re not. As much as I love going to air shows, these were actually taken in our back yard. A P-51 flew over our house unexpectedly one afternoon many moons ago while I was out taking pictures of the dogs. I don’t recognize the plane (it’s certainly not ours, as in, the one the SoCal CAF flies) but there aren’t a lot of them around to begin with, so it shouldn’t be hard to track down if I really wanted to.

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Filed under Airshows, CAF, Flying, Photography

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!”


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.







Filed under Photography, Travel, Weather