When I first arrived in San Antonio, Texas, it was with the intention that I would be leaving in 6 months. I had plans, plans with extended far beyond the great state of Texas. This was in November 2010. At that time I had just returned to The States after a year and a half of travel abroad. The only thing on my mind was more travel. San Antonio was only to be a unique stopping point, just another place I had not experienced in a long list of places I had not experienced. Things change.
Though I did leave San Antonio in May of 2011, as planned, other things were happening. Things which were not planned, but which were very welcomed. I left with the intention of not returning, however shortly later, in August 2011, I found myself returning to Texas, and returning to San Antonio. Again, things change.
Up until this point my life had been about experiences, about the unplanned. I suck at planning. I excel at allowing things to happen, adapting, absorbing, and learning from these happenings. (Though some lessons come much more slowly than others, and at a much dearer price, it’s those which usually are the most profound.) I was the proverbial tumbleweed, going where the wind blew – and going well. My skills of landing on my feet would embarrass a cat. My adaptability would impress Darwin, and my resourcefulness would humble a wolverine.
So, I returned to San Antonio and it was soon after when I discovered blogging. It quickly became added to the list of things I love. But there were other things being added to that list, primarily a love of science, astronomy, cosmology, and space exploration. At the time I had no idea how deeply that love would run. Things change.
As I write this I am, once again, preparing to leave San Antonio. Only this time, I know I’ll be returning. I’m leaving on tomorrow for a 6 week house-sitting job in South Mississippi, followed by 2 weeks of visiting with family in Louisiana and Mississippi. (A family which has grown use to not seeing me for years at a time.) While I’m very much looking forward to this time, I’m even more excited about my eventual return here to Texas. Over the past few months I’ve come to the decision that instead of simply allowing life to happen to me, it was now time to put my adaptability, my resourcefulness, and my love, to work. When I return to San Antonio I will be returning to school to obtain a teacher’s certification in science. This will not be easy for me, and I’m not kidding myself about the difficulty. It will require the exercising of some very flabby skills – particularly those of planning, focus, commitment, and follow-through. (Skills not required of a tumbleweed.) I look forward to the challenge.
To say that I’m easily excited would be a gross understatement. To say that I’m inspired by the passions of others would be even more so. There are those who, though they may not be aware, directly contributed to this completely unexpected path I now find myself on, and to whom I am gratefully indebted. There is someone on the personal level, and he knows who he is. And there are those who have influenced me in the blogging world. Namely: Chica Blanca of White Lady In The Hood, Colline of Colline’s Blog, (both through example) and Smak of Promethean Times (it may have been his wonderfully encouraging comments which first sparked this fire).
In addition to these 3, there are so many more. So many of you whose comments, whose encouragement to write about the things I love, who’s excitement and interest have made me want to dive entirely into the waters in which I now find myself. Thank you. Thank you to anyone who’s ever read a post of mine, who’s ever hit ‘like’, and especially those of you who’ve left comments which led me down this path.
Though I’ve been extremely busy the past couple of weeks, making plans (Yep! I’ve made plans!), closing out what may be the last political campaign I work on, and preparing to leave, I’ve tried my best to keep up with you. I’ve every intention to take you on this journey with me, while at the same time following you on your journeys. My journey doesn’t end with teaching. I intend to continue my own studies and eventually incorporate my loves of travel, science, and writing by teaching abroad – particularly in Latin America. And yep! You’re coming with me!
Compact Payload Test Range at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) space research and technology center (ESTEC). In this zone of silence metal walls form a ‘Faraday cage’ to block all external signals, isolating the facility from TV and radio broadcasts, aircraft and ship radars, and even mobile calls. EPICALLY AWESOME!!
Also EPICALLY AWESOME…
…This past weekend I was given an EPIC surprise when …things I LOVE! was nominated for the The Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness! And how AWESOME is that?! Well, I’m about to tell ya……
The award, as EPIC as it is in its own right, was made even more AWESOMELY EPICALLY AWESOME because it was presented to me by the AWESOME and brilliantly EPIC photographer, and all-around AWESOME sweetheart, Charlie from the EPIC Charles Schnyder Photography. Thank you VERY much Charlie, and anyone who isn’t familiar with Charlie’s work should definitely head over and check out some of his AWESOME photography in EPIC posts such as Budapest, Potpourri of Zürich, and his most recent Pillow Fight Day Zürich 2013 – which looks like an EPICALLY AWESOME lot of fun!
Now, as with any award, The Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness does come with rules – and also as with any award I will EPICALLY ignore them. According to Charlie I’m suppose to write 10 AWESOME facts about myself, and also pass the award along to 10 AWESOMELY EPIC blogs….hmmm…
…I’m thinking people want to read 10 AWESOME things about me nearly as much as I want to ‘LIKE’ shit on facebook, which is not at all! So instead, I’ll present 10 things which I think to be AWESOMELY EPIC!
1- APOLLO EPIC!!!!
Today being April 11 (my AWESOME nephew’s birthday!), no post on EPIC AWESOMENESS would be complete if failing to mention Apollo 13. Launched April 11, 1970 Apollo 13, the 7th manned mission of the TRULY EPIC Apollo Program and the third intended lunar landing, was commanded by James A. Lovell, with Jack Swigert as Command Module pilot and Fred W. Haise as Lunar Module pilot. The mission’s lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded crippling the service module upon which the Command Module depended. Despite limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to jury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew EPICALLY returned safely to Earth on April 17.
2 – STELLAR AWESOME!!!
3 – STELLAR-ENVY EPIC!!!
Proving that size doesn’t matter, our own sun fights back with this EPIC March 21, 2013 M-Class eruption unleashed from Active Region 11692. AND! Our sun has EPICALLY AWESOMELY dramatic back-ground music, and VY Canis Majoris does not!
4- MORE STELLAR EPICNESS!!!
That’s right, I said MORE STELLAR EPICNESS! On yesterday, April 10th, The European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in northern Chile announced that it’s captured what it calls ‘most detailed picture ever taken‘ of the glowing green planetary nebula IC 1295. AWESOME? Without doubt! The image shows the nebula surrounding a dim and dying star located about 3300 light-years away in the constellation of Scutum, and give us an AWESOME glimpse as to what will eventually happen with our own sun. As stars the size of our Sun make the final transition into retirement their atmospheres are blown away into space. For a few tens of thousands of years they are surrounded by spectacular, colorful glowing clouds of ionized gas. EPIC! And thanks to my AWESOME friend, Mark A, in Arizona for bringing this EPICNESS to my attention!
5 – EPIC NERD AWESOMENESS!!!
The ‘ESTEC Shake’ on an actual electrodynamic shaker which is normally used to test spacecraft. Filmed at the EPIC, and aforementioned, European Space Agency’s (ESA) technical center, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the AWESOME Netherlands. Nerdy as fuck? Absolutely. AWESOME? No Doubt!
6 – EPIC UAVSAR!!!
On Mar 17, 2013, NASA’s EPIC Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) acquired synthetic aperture radar data over the Napo River in Ecuador and Peru. The image colors indicate a likelihood of flooding beneath the forest canopy, which is difficult to determine using traditional optical sensors. The image is a 8.7-mile-wide by 5.6-mile-long segment of an image measuring more than 124 miles long. Data from UAVSAR helps scientists assess the effectiveness of using synthetic aperture radar data to study the flooding dynamics of rivers around the world. AWESOME? Hell, YES!!
7 – AWESOME CHANDRA!!!
From EPICALLY AWESOME NASA and its EPIC Chandra X-ray Observatory this video shows a fast moving jet of particles produced by a rapidly rotating neutron star. EPIC! The star of this AWESOME show is the Vela pulsar, a neutron star formed when a massive star collapsed. The Vela pulsar is about 1,000 light years from Earth, spans about 12 miles in diameter, and makes over 11 complete rotations every second. EPIC? Hell, YES!
8 – EPIC SPACE POOP!!!
The AWESOMELY EPIC International Space Station (ISS) commander and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut EPIC Chris Hadfield giving an AWESOME explanation of how toilets work in space. EPICALLY ewww (TMI!), but AWESOMELY funny.
9 – AWESOMELY EPIC ALMA!!!
10 – EPIC JOHNSON STYLE!!!
Never to be out-geeked by those guys and gals at the European Space Agency, NASA’s Johnson Space Center turns up the nerd-meter with this EPICALLY AWESOME Gangnam Style parody. Forget K-Pop! We got J-Pop! EPIC!!!
Well, there you have it – 10 EPICALLY AWESOME things I LOVE, and you have to admit they’re much more AWESOME than me telling you 10 facts about myself such as my irrational dislike of cumquats. And to conclude this post, and because it’s grown to EPIC oh-for-fuck’s-sake massiveness already, I’ll now give my shout-outs to 10 TRULY EPICALLY AWESOME fellow bloggers, in no particular orer –
1 – The AWESOMELY and quite EPIC White Lady In The Hood
2 – The EPICALLY AWESOMELY FUNNY Wrong Hands
3 – The AWESOMELY (INSANELY!) EPIC A Window Into The Woods
4 – The EPIC and massively AWESOME Colline’s Blog
5 – The AWESOME EPICALLY MEGA-EPIC Werner Priller
6 – The EPIC and-not-to-mention AWESOME Science Springs
7 – The AWESOMELY EPICALLY EPIC My Beautiful Things
8 – The EPICALLY (squared!) EPIC Silent Astronomer
9 – The AWESOME EPICALLY AWESOME The Future Is Papier Mache
10 – The EPIC and certainly AWESOME Mathematical Mischief
As always, I mention these fellow bloggers simply because they deserve mention, and my mentioning in no way obligates them to accept or pay it forward. And I may even, at some point, get around to mentioning to them that they have been mentioned. Maybe You, however, SHOULD check out their EPIC AWESOMENESS ASAP!!
Once again, EPIC thanks to the AWESOMELY AWESOME CHARLIE!!
(Oh, crap! Do I now have to go back and link all of this!? AND TAG TOO?!!! TOO FREAKING EPIC!)
After leaving Enchanted Rock and returning to Fredericksburg, and with the Funyuns seriously wearing off, Lucero and I were ready for some hardy eats. Luckily in F-burg there is no shortage of dining options. Lucero expressed a wish for ‘German food’ and within minutes we encountered the Altdorf Biergarten….
The town of Fredericksburg was established in 1846 and has a population of roughly 10,000 — all of whom apparently avoid the Main Street area on a Saturday evening. The Altdorf Biergarten is housed in a landmark limestone building dating to back 1847, so without question, one of the oldest structures in F-Burg. The German community here boasts F-burg as being one of the oldest settlements in Texas, someone should inform those crazy Spanish as they were establishing missions south of here about 140 years prior. (San Francisco de la Espada, 1689) This does not, in any way, negate the food at Altdorf! Lucero, being much more continental than myself, understood the menu, while I mainly focused on the selection of beer! (In fairness, she was driving.) Finding Shiner Bock on the menu, I was happy! Extremely HAPPY!
Shiner, Texas and the Spoetzl Brewery — a whole ‘nother road trip!
After a wonderful meal of German meats, which we started with some Tex-Mex nachos (of course!), we spent some time strolling up and down Fredericksburg’s main street. It was somewhere around this time we encountered the 4 drunk girls — who were, in fact, so drunk they had been thrown out of one restaurant and were hard-pressed to find another who would serve them. Yes, there are few things sadder (and funnier!) than drunk AND hungry Texas girls. After a much-too-long time hanging on Main Street with the girls, I was ready to exit Fredericksburg, and luckily so was Lucero. But not before a cruise around town looking for an open liquor store — for more Shiner Bock, of course! Finding the liquor shop, I also found Enchanted Rock Vodka! (I shit you not!) Apparently, the folks up at E-Rock are making vodka and putting it into clever tourist-eye-catching bottles. And of course, I bought one! But, you know, just the trial-size.
Admiral Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War, established in the old Nimitz Hotel, Fredericksburg, 1852. There were NO drunk girls in here.
Lucero and I headed out of Fredericksburg in the direction of Kerrville along the banks of The Guadalupe River. The river runs from Kerr County southeasterly before emptying out into the Gulf of Mexico. The town itself boasts a population of 20k, and was named after Texas Revolution major James Kerr. However, before arriving in Kerrville, we pulled off the highway onto some long and deserted Texas back-road to engage in a bit of star-gazing. And, indeed the stars at night ARE big and bright deep in the heart of Texas.
IT. WAS. AWESOME!!!
Arriving in Kerrville, where we planned to stay the night, our attention was immediately caught by the lights of a Ferris Wheel! Apparently, we’d stumbled upon a small-town Texas carnival, and there was NO WAY IN HELL we weren’t going!
Folks in Kerrville, Texas enjoying a very pleasant Saturday evening.
After a night’s stay at the lovely Kerville Motel 6, where Lucero was finally able to do a bit of drinking, and we talked till about 3am, we woke to a very CHILLY Texas Hill Country morning. (Ok, it was more like noon.)
After a breakfast/lunch at the local Cracker Barrel, and much coffee, we headed to the town’s visitor center to find out what was going on in Kerrville. It was then we found….Stonehenge! Or rather — Stonehenge II. It seems in the nearby town of Ingram, Texas, population 1,740, a local farmer, Al Shepperd, with the help of his neighbor, Doug Hill, had constructed a near-replica of the original Stonehenge located in Wiltshire, England. This being the stuff of road-trip glory, we were off and heading towards Ingram! We were SO not disappointed!
Realizing that with our encounter with Stonehenge II we’d pretty much hit ‘road-trip nirvana’, Lucero and I headed back to Kerrville to chill out with a hike along the banks of the blue-green waters of the Guadalupe River.
Scenes of the Kerrville Dam of the Guadalupe River.
After a nice hike, and a HUGE brownie, we were off and back on the road — this time heading for the town of Boerne, population 10k or so.
In Boerne, after cruising up and down the nearly deserted main street, we found out about the Boerne City Park Lake, and decided to head on over.
After leaving the lake it was time to head back towards San Antonio, and towards more food! Lucero was craving Puerto Rican food, and that was sounding pretty damn good to me! But before reaching SA we encountered more road-side wild flowers and we just had to stop!
All Photographs: Alex Autin
On Saturday morning my friend Lucero and I headed out for a little Texas road trip. We had no REAL destination, as any good road trip should NOT, and only a general idea of wanting to hit The Hill Country.
The Texas Hill Country pretty much applies to a region of Central Texas consisting of tall rugged hills which feature thin layers of soil atop limestone or granite. It includes the Llano Uplift and Enchanted Rock. (More on E Rock in a bit!!) The Hill Country reaches into portions of San Antonio’s northern suburbs, the western half of Travis County, and ends just west of Austin. The terrain’s large number of limestone or granite rocks and boulders plus its thin layer of topsoil makes the region very dry and prone to flash flooding. The Hill Country is also home to a host of cool native Southwestern vegetation including yucca, prickly pear cactus, cedar scrub, and the Texas live oak. And in the early spring — Bluebonnets, the Texas state flower!
Since this was a road trip, and since I’m pretty sure that trips of such nature are meant to be started late, we tried our best to get a late start. And we succeeded wonderfully! Even before leaving San Antonio, in fact less than a mile from my house, we had already made our first stop of the trip for roadside eats. In our defense it was nearly noon…. and who can resist Texas Brisket!!
I had the brisket taco with jalapenos (on the right), Lucero had the brisket sandwich on Texas toast. (And no, I will not be documenting every meal we ate with photos. But only because I forget to take them! I remembered to take these — so I was damn sure gonna use them!)
It’s my thought that any proper road trip should include lots and lots of really crappy photos taken along the way from inside a moving vehicle. If you share this thought, this post WILL SO NOT disappoint! Here we are moving leisurely along I-10, and we’re fairly certain we’re moving in the right direction.
Me: It’s starting to look all hilly!
Lucero: Damn, did I miss my turn? (I heard this A LOT, and loved it each time!)
Crappy Moving Vehicle Photo #3 – Fredericksburg! Our first ‘official’ destination. Fredericksburg is a very cool town in Gillespie County, known as the home of ‘Texas German’, a dialect spoken by the first generations of German settlers who initially refused to learn English. It’s a lovely place, very German-ish-y, and not nearly as out-of-focus as this exit sign would imply.
We checked out Fredericksburg for a bit, and realizing that Lucero’s a shopper and I’m a hiker — we then knew that compromises would need to be made. And quick!
In F-burg, taking part in the strange activity referred to as ‘Antiquing’. Interesting…. Lucero has Olympic-quality antiquing skills! I mostly walked around texting anyone and everyone I know. In fairness we spent very little time here, and were soon back on the road and heading for ENCHANTED ROCK! The locals at The Red Baron Antique Mall, extremely nice people who showed no signs of refusing to speak English, gave us directions to The Rock, and also a very valuable heads-up — If the road sign on Ranch Road 965 was ‘flashing’ this meant the park was full and no more visitors would be allowed in. Oh no! We now were re-thinking that whole ‘leaving late’ thing. But in true road-trip fashion we decided to give it a shot and headed out to Ranch Road 965 — after a quick stop for water and Funyuns. Hell yeah! (If you don’t have Funyuns — it’s not a road trip!)
Crappy Moving Vehicle Photo #4 — IT’S NOT FLASHING!!!! WOOHOO for us!
Enchanted Rock is one of those ‘must do’ places I learned of when first coming to Texas. So far, I had not been, and this was all about to change! (Thank you, Lucero!) According to Wiki — The Enchanted Rock State Natural Area includes Enchanted Rock, an enormous pink granite pluton rock formation, and 640 acres of surrounding land. E-Rock rises approximately 425 feet above the surrounding terrain to an elevation of 1,825 feet above sea level. It’s the largest such pink granite monadnock in the United States, and was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1936. According to me — 100% pure awesomeness!
Enchanted Rock’s prominent granite dome is visible for many miles in the surrounding Llano Uplift basin. The weathered dome is actually the visible above-ground part of a segmented ridge, the surface expression of a large igneous batholith of middle Precambrian material that intruded into the earlier Packsaddle Schist. The intrusive granite of the rock mass was exposed by extensive erosion of the surrounding sedimentary rock, primarily the Cretaceous Edwards limestone, which is exposed a few miles to the south of Enchanted Rock.
There are more than 500 species of plants inhabiting the rock, such as this White Lace Cactus. Vernal pools on the rock– ecologically threatened depressions of flora and fauna adapted to harsh environments — are said to contain fragile invertebrate fairy shrimp. I saw no evidence of fairy shrimp!
I did, however, see Bluebonnets! : )
Since this post is growing to monster proportions — and with Enchanted Rock how could it not?! — I’ve decided to break it up into 2 posts. Be sure to catch the next installment where Lucero and I return to Fredericksburg for some fine German dining including Shiner Bock (!!!), encounter the ‘drunk girls’, make a last-minute run to a liquor store (more Shiner Bock!), head out for some jaw-dropping middle-of-nowhere star-gazing, stumble upon coolness in another small Texas town, hike along the banks of the Guadalupe River, argue over freedom of expression, and find Stonehenge….
On the way back to F-burg, goats…who were completely unimpressed with E-Rock….
All photographs – Alex Autin
How do you enjoy your tequila? If you’re anything like me you enjoy it with triple sec, lime juice, and a little salt. (A glass in the shape of a cactus is COMPLETELY optional!) However, if you’re anything like the folks at BevShots you enjoy your tequila crystallized on a slide and photographed under a Polarized Light Microscope. And what would that mix of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice (traditionally referred to as a margarita!) look like through a microscope? It looks something like this:
BevShots was founded by research scientist Michael Davidson who, while looking for novel ways to fund his Florida State University lab, decided to take his micro-photographs to businesses for possible commercial opportunities. BevShots is licensed from Florida State University and Michael Davidson, but apparently the main party man is Lester Hutt, president of BevShots MicroArt, LLC. Hutt, while working on his graduate degree in chemistry from UC Berkeley, according to the Bevshot website, also worked on NASA’s Mars probes searching for evidence of past life on our neighboring planet. And that’s just damn cool!
A BevShot Vodka and Tonic! This, and other equally amazing micro-photograped beverages, alcoholic and non, are available on giclee canvas or metallic prints at the BevShot site (where hours can be lost just going through their vast catalog of completely interesting images). Check them out!
Postcards to Tassie
A recent call out was issued to excite the life of one particular post office worker in Australia. Apparently, Kelly in Woodbridge, Tasmania (population 271) is trying to fill the walls of her office with postcards from around the world. And how COOL is that?!
I became aware of this Postal Project via a post by Heather (aka Kanerva) of A Taswegian in Finland in her Feb, 26 post titled Let’s Get Postal! And apparently Heather was made aware of the project by a post by Jennifer of Coffee, Camera & Kids in her post of the same day titled Postcards for Kelly. Exciting? No doubt! I love how these projects spread like wildfire!
If you’d like to get involved, and I know that you do, just pickup a postcard from your hometown, or when you’re on your Spring Break road trip, or during your summer travels, or preferably all of the above, and post them over to Kelly!
C/- Woodbridge Post Office
Woodbridge, Tas, 7162
Also, it’ll be really cool if you jot a few words to Kelly, not mandatory, but I’m sure she’d love to hear about you in addition to the places you live and visit! My postcard from ole San Antone is sitting on my desk right now waiting for me to make the trek down to the post office….which I’ll do, right after my 3rd cup of coffee. It’s only a couple of blocks away, but — you know — it’s TEXAS sized blocks so caffeine is required. I’ll probably need my hiking boots too….
Has The Future Arrived?
with Neil deGrasse Tyson
I first became aware of this stunning image in a Jan 25 post on EarthSky by Deborah Byrd titled Underwater Fish Tornado Off Baja California. The photograph is the work of photographer and marine biologist Octavio Aburto, captured at the Cabo Pulmo National Park in Mexico, in the course of studying the courtship behavior of a species of Jack fish. Mr Aburto’s photograph, aptly titled David and Goliath, captures his friend David Castro’s miniscule size in comparison to the gigantic school. For more of Octavio Aburto’s brilliant marine photography visit his website, which can be found here. Also, check out the video below to learn more about the making of David and Goliath.
WOW! And on the subject of ‘WOW’…..there’s this…
My favorite astronomy image of the week was taken by astro-photographer Luis Argerich of Buenos Aires, Argentina. This image titled, Airglow Above Buenos Aires was featured as Earth Science Picture of the Day for Jan 26. The image is a 360-degree stereographic projection showing the entire night sky near Mr Argerich’s location about 60 miles from Buenos Aires. Airglow is a weak light emission stemming from the chemical reactions involving oxygen, nitrogen, sodium and ozone (chemiluminescence) at altitudes between about 50 to 60 miles above the Earth’s surface. According to Mr Argerich, the green color bands, which are obvious to the camera, were not visible to the naked eye and seem to converge because of perspective. In addition to this awesome image, Mr Argerich was also featured this week as Jan 24′s Astronomy Picture of the Day for his photograph called ISS and the Summer Milky Way, featuring starry clouds and nebulae along the southern hemisphere’s summer Milky Way arc above the horizon, and the orbiting International Space Station tracing a long streak through a single, 5 minute, star-tracking exposure. Be sure to visit Luis Argerich’s site for more of his amazingly beautiful work!
Inside the blogosphere this week there was much to think about, smile about, and out-and-out laugh about. For a brilliant, and hilarious, look at what your brain is doing while you’re at work check out Canadian cartoonist, John Atkinson’s Jan 23rd post on Wrong Hands titled Occupational Preoccupation. While there be sure to check out some of John’s galleries, but be warned, his work is very, VERY, addictive!
Also falling into the category of Things I Love one of my favorite blog writers, White Lady in the Hood, also know as Chica Blanca, treated us this week to a post titled The River Rats. Managing to combine humor and reflectiveness, Chica, has a knack of not only drawing the reader in, but also eerily making us feel as if we are there taking part in the story she’s sharing with us. Her writing is good, very good, but it’s her ability to connect with her readers which shines most brightly. Chica’s an elusive poster, she won’t flood your inbox, but if you enjoy a good read and are anything like me, when you do find one of her posts in your mailbox you’ll be heading right over.
If you haven’t had your mind exercised and excited lately, you might want to pay a visit to Wired Cosmos and check out Jason Carr’s Jan 23 article, Sending Odors and Tastes as an Email Attachment, to read about some of the uses, and potential misuses, of the technology of electronic noses and tongues. Wired Cosmos is a fascinating journal of science, technology, and futurism, and by fascinating I mean mind-blowing. A couple other of Jason’s articles I’ve particularly enjoyed include his Nine Must-Read Dystopian Novels, (Considering I’ve only read 4 of the 9, I’ve some catching up to do! How many have you read?), and his recent emerging technology article Future Computing: Meet the Flexible Paper Computer. Ok, I SO want one of those!
My favorite song of this past week was posted by Xandi from World Music in a post titled, Music from Argentina – Alerta Pachuca, and features the song Nunca Dejes de Bailar (Never Stop Dancing). Alerta Pachuca, formed in 2008, is a Latin fusion group composed of 7 multi-instrumentalists from Buenos Aires. I hope you enjoy!!
Here’s hoping everyone a great week. Keep looking up!!
On Wednesday, January 16, NASA published this animation of the Orion spacecraft’s upcoming (2017) Exploration Mission-1. Did it excite me? Just a bit, a great bit! Exploration Mission-1 will be the first integrated flight test with both the Orion spacecraft and NASA’s new Space Launch System.
In other Orion related news the European Space Agency (ESA) announced this week that, in a collaborative effort, it will be supplying a driving force to the Orion spacecraft in the form of its Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs). The ATV-derived service module will provide propulsion, power, thermal control, as well as supplying water and gas to the astronauts in the habitable module.
”ATV has proven itself on three flawless missions to the Space Station and this agreement is further confirmation that Europe is building advanced, dependable spacecraft,” said Nico Dettmann, Head of ATV’s production program. This collaboration between ESA and NASA continues the spirit of international cooperation that forms the foundation of the ISS.
This awe-inspiring image of spiral galaxy NGC 1309 was by far my favorite astronomy image of the week! Brought to us by the Hubble Legacy Archive, the ESA, NASA, and with processing by Martin Pugh, this stunning galaxy, which lies 100 million light-years away in the constellation of the River (Eridanus), spans about 30,000 light-years making it about one third the size of our own Milky Way galaxy. <– Click link for a jaw-dropping artist’s illustration of what some distant astronomers might likely see if peering back at us from across the expanse! I don’t want to sound all boastful or anything, but WOW, we have one awesome galaxy!!
In the blogosphere this week, I first and foremost have to sincerely thank the brilliant photographer, writer, artist, and all-around Renaissance-dude, J.E. Lattimer, for his very kind mention of Things I Love in his January 14th post, Blog of the Year 2012. The nod is very much appreciated, and many congrats to J.E. on his award. I first mentioned J.E. back in March of last year in my post titled …things I LOVED! Week March 12th through March 18th. Since that time Mr Lattimer has expanded to 3 blogs: Fictional Machines, Arcane Arrangements, and Mysteries of the Wasteland. Check them out, prepare to be amazed!
This week, for me at least, seemed to be dominated by images and the photographers who take them. 3 photographers in particular completely blew me away. Not only am I impressed with their images, but also in how they fully demonstrate how the resulting images, no matter how good the equipment, depend entirely on the artist behind the camera.
In his January 15 post titled Bavarian Forest National Park – Lusen Mt, one of my very favorite astro-photographers, Werner Priller, documents through words and A-MAZ-ING photographs a night spent camping out in -17C temperature just a stone’s throw from the Czech border. This is an incredible effort on the part of a photographer who makes a life’s work out of incredible efforts; the forest, the frozen summit cross (WOW!!), Warner’s camp site, the wolves (!!), all under such a beautiful starry night as to make Van Gogh blush! I don’t think I have to mention again to check out this post …you’re probably already there.
Another photographer I’ve mentioned before, the elusive George Weaver of She Kept a Parrot, this week stole my heart right out of my chest (she has a way of doing that!) with her January 16 post titled The Star Wars Cowboy. Ms Weaver is, by far, one of the best story-tellers I’ve ever come across. Though her stunningly honest photography, and her equally honest words, she takes us on a journey which always feels familiar because she is, in fact, reminding us of who we are. And we are human. Thank you George.
Speaking of humans, the 3rd photographer to catch my attention this past week is Richard Guest of The Future Is Paper Mâché. Since May of 2012 Richard has been walking up to complete strangers in the streets and alleys of London, asking if he could take their picture, and the results are entirely interesting! This week, amongst others, I found absolutely intriguing Mr Guest’s January 13th post titled Street Portrait #48 (Pierce), and his January 16th entry Street Portrait #50 (Peter). While you’re there checking out Richard’s street photography be sure to also check out some of his collaborations with other artists, including the above mentioned J.E. Lattimer (Nineteen Eighty-Four).
In closing this week I leave you with an earworm from The Misfits, I Turned Into A Martian, a little shout out to Curiosity who’s about to start drilling up the Martian surface!! Yep, we’re cooking rocks on another planet, and how freaking cool is that!!
Have a GREAT week, and Dare Mighty Things!!
On Friday, January 4th, NASA posted this video on its website of a solar eruption which took place Dec 31, 2012. (And you thought your New Year’s fireworks rocked!) NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this four-hour event in extreme ultraviolet light shown here at a high cadence of an image every 36 seconds. The graceful flow of plasma rises up from the sun driven by magnetic forces, however without enough force to overcome the sun’s gravity much of the plasma then falls back into the sun. To give you an idea as to the scale of this solar event — the length of the eruption extends about 160,000 miles out from the Sun, or about 20 times the diameter of our planet.
Elsewhere this week, in the ‘Cooler Than The Moon’s Dark Craters‘ department, on January 2nd Kim over at Check Your Premises posted this amazing video tribute to Nikola Tesla titled Marco Tempest: The electric rise and fall of Nikola Tesla.
This remarkable video is the work of technoillusionist Marco Tempest and utilizes a digital update on Tanagra Theatre, however instead of mirrors Tempest uses projection mapping combined with a pop-up book to tell the story of Nikola Tesla – called by some ‘the greatest geek who ever lived’. Kim has a knack for finding, and presenting, some of the most amazing stuff…ever! If you’re not subscribed could it be that you just don’t like complete coolness delivered to your inbox on a regular basis?
In addition to the awesomeness in imagery posted on Check Your Premises the opening week of 2013 presented us with absolutely no shortage of images to leave us breathless. (Did I just write ‘awesomeness in imagery’? Wow, I really do need a long vacation.) On Jan 4th photographer Carl Milner at Milners Blog, in a post titled Technicolour Star Trails, treated his readers to a mesmerizing collection of long exposure star trail photography by Australian photographer Lincoln Harrison. If you find yourself running short of ‘awe and wonder’ this week, check out Carl’s blog for a massive-sized dose of both. Be sure to check out Carl’s Dec 30th post titled My 2012 in Pictures. One look at this collection of images had me searching for the Follow button!
Also this past week, in the ‘That’s Just Freaking Funny’ department, two of my long-time favorite bloggers, Suzanne Rogers of A Window Into The Woods, and Smaktakula of Promethean Times, both took a foray into the world of YouTube, and both with hilarious results. Suzanne in her Jan 2nd post titled WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM… alerted us, via YouTube, as to the horrific activities of Cranky-Pants Deer in Diva Town. Check out Suzanne’s post for a link to the video, but I warn you….it’s not pretty! Smak, in his Jan 4th post, On Proper Behavior While At The Theater, tells us how he was banned from a theater…for life. It’s also ‘not pretty’, and yes it does involve a transsexual transvestite. You can find Smak’s video on his post. Thank you Suzanne and Smak for once again proving that brilliance is just a short trip down the road from insanity.
Closing with my favorite music video of the week is Stan from Xandi’s World Music with his Jan 3rd post of Denmark’s Lucas Graham and his incredibly catchy song Drunk In The Morning. Check out World Music for this and other awesome music videos from around the world. I hope you enjoy the song as much as I do, also hoping everyone has a fantastic new week!
A few days ago I was approached, via email, by someone I do not know. This, in itself, is not a rare event. I am often electronically approached by a variety of unknown individuals, including many Canadians who are greatly concerned with the health of my sex life.
This particular solicitation, however, had nothing to do with sex. Had it, I would have …well, never mind. I won’t go down that road. What it was, actually, was an invitation to participate in a Birthday Event. Now let me be perfectly clear in stating that I, as a rule, avoid Birthday Events. Sort of in the same way I avoid Facebook ‘Friends’ and Jehovah Witnesses, who, I’m convinced, are the exact same individuals… the sneaky fuckers.
Though I typically ignore socially forced celebrations and their attempts in making the ‘unextraordinary’ extraordinary, the recipient of this particular celebration is someone I choose to not ignore. In fact, he would be very difficult to ignore even if I did choose to.
By now it’s clear I’m referring to El Guapo, of Guapola – The Asylum Within The Asylum. And music! And apparently today is his birthday. Why anyone over the age of 25 would want to be reminded of a birthday is complete FOOLISHNESS, but without question, when it comes to FOOLISHNESS no one does it better then Guapo. Also, in my experience, no one does niceness, cleverness, and sweetness better than Guapo. Besides his abilities as a writer, which he highly under-rates, and his being one of the very first people to make me feel like a part of this twisted, ego stroking, community known as WordPress, I have a great admiration for people completely willing to jump off things, from things, and into things. I also adore anyone with the ability to allow themselves to go totally geek for the things which they love, another category in which Guapo excels. So, without more being said, because really ….how much more needs to be said……
HAPPY BIRTHDAY GUAPO!!!!
Oh, one last thing….I was asked to include a Song of the Day. Here you go Guapo, just for you!! No, not a pony, but better! A unicorn…
I have no idea what the fuck this is. Catchy though…
A few days ago I was mentioned in a post titled One Lovely Blog Award Nomination written by the very thoughtful Carina Ragno from L’Amore e Forte Come la Morte. I must thank Carina for this mention, not because it’s in The Rules, which of course it is, but because she has consistently been a supporter and of that I’m very appreciative. Thank you Carina.
Now on to this Award… as with any blog award I do appreciate the mention and will do my best to respond. (There are some awards which came my way during my 3 month break which I’ve not, as yet, gotten to. Please know I’m aware of this!) My approach to these mentions is to attempt to accept gracefully while maintaining a sense of fun and community. In this approach I’m not always successful, though I should point out that I don’t consider failure in any endeavor a reason to no longer, at the very least, try.
The Rules: According to Carina there are 5 rules associated with the One Lovely Blog Award.
Rule 1: Thank the person presenting the mention and link back to their blog. Again, thank you Carina!
Rule 2: List 7 random facts about yourself. This, The Random Self-Facts, seems to be a common theme of these awards. Apparently the fact that blogs tend to be ALL about ourselves is not enough of a dive into egocentrism and we should delve even further. Since I’m quite certain the existence of anyone actually reading this would not be complete without knowing 7 MORE interesting tidbits about me, I’ll capitulate:
- Random Fact # 1 – I completely dislike listing Random Facts about myself. I’m much more into specifics…
- Random Fact # 2 – I think 7 is an insanely HUGE number of Random Facts to list about one’s self.
- Random Fact # 3 – I think the words ‘What kind of fuckery is this?’ to be the most brilliant opening to any song …ever. (Thank you Amy Winehouse!)
- Random Fact # 4 – I have a secret crush on Sam Harris. (I’m not sure if this qualifies as a Random Fact. Actually, I’m not even sure if it’s a fact at all. It could all be in my mind.)
- Random Fact # 5 – I wake at 4am. Most days… not EVERY day! Some days I’ll sleep right through to like 5 or 6am. Shocking, but true.
- Random Fact # 6 – Vegans greatly reduce my dining pleasure. Not that I’m against eating a vegan diet at times, I’m not. I think it healthy. It’s the vegan, himself, I’m opposed to. Really? This is what you eat daily yet it still takes 3 hours to decide on a restaurant, and I’m to then sit patiently as you interrogate the waiter for half an hour as to the ‘humaneness’ of the House Salad. Are you shitting me?
- Random Fact # 7 – I’ve never had a One Night Stand. Not that I’m opposed, I did actually try once with a Canadian I met in a bar. It didn’t work because he then kept coming back and inviting me to dinner and stuff. I tried to explain the rules, but he wasn’t getting it. I think I should have tried with an Italian instead…
Rules 3 and 4: Nominate 15 bloggers for this award and notify them as to their mention. 15!!?? Madness. I can not, and will not, do this. It’s this aspect of these blog awards which make them so unappetizing for so many; sure the mention is nice, but in doing so we also pass a huge responsibility to others. Either play along or be considered an ungrateful ass with no sense of community. Fuckery, indeed. Though I choose to play along, I certainly do not wish to force this on others or in any way make others feel obligated. So, to this, I now nominate everyone on my Blog Roll! I attest to the ‘Loveliness’ of each and every one of you. As for the notification; if you’re reading this, consider yourself notified. If you’re not reading this …lol… well, fuck you! See if I ever nominate you again!
Rule 5: Post the lovely ‘Lovely Award’ logo on your blog. Done!
WHAT A VOICE!!
The above video, We’re NASA and We Know It, created by Satire hit YouTube on August 15 and as of this morning has received 1,822,175 views …and counting. Way to go viral! I’m sure only about a quarter of those hits are mine! I was introduced to the video earlier this week via Frank of A Frank Angle in his August 16th post title Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 153. Leave it to Frank to find the cool stuff…and find it FAST! Frank is now on a 3 week break from the Blogosphere, and will be missed. If you’re not familiar with Frank (which rock have you been living under?) check him out. You’ll find no shortage of interesting articles to keep you occupied until his return.
Also while on the subject of NASA, one of my favorite subjects, here’s a heads-up that NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) are set to launch two spacecraft aboard a United Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Space Coast on Thursday of this week (23rd). The RBSP spacecraft are designed to fly and operate in the heart of the most hazardous regions of near-Earth space to collect data and help researchers develop an understanding of the Van Allen radiation belts, two rings of very high energy electrons and protons that can pose hazards to human and robotic explorers. This two year mission is part of NASA’s Living With a Star Program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system.
Now back to inside the blogosphere where this past week there was no shortage of good stuff! My absolute favorite cartoonist, John Atkinson, of Wrong Hands provided us with a couple of laughs this week. John’s August 14th His Pet Peeve cartoon is hilarious! John then backed this up on August 17th with Easy Chair ….which may be, in my opinion, one of John’s funniest so far! One of my favorite humor writers, White Lady, aka Chica Blanka, of White Lady in The Hood also kept us amused this week with her August 16th post titled What Women Want. This post was so interesting I couldn’t help but to ‘see’ her post ….and raise her! Well done White Lady!
Not at all to be confused with humor, the hard-hitting journalistic team of Tardsie D Bagg and Smaktakula over at Promethean Times kept us informed and enlightened this past week with a flurry of timely (and freaking brilliant!) posts such as the August 14th edition of Ask Tardsie titled So Ya Like Rocket Ships? In Glorious Hear-O-Vision! Amazing work, guys! Also, on a somber note, on August 15th the boys posted a moving tribute lamenting the passing of TV’s Horshack, Ron Palillo, titled Requiem For a Horshack. Words … cannot … express … my grief. Thank you Promethean Times.
My photography of the week award goes to Mike over at Mike’s Look At Life. The ever prolific Mike clicks far faster than I can keep up with, but I do try …some things are just worth the effort! (Mike also gets the nod for best comment of the week, but that’s more a personal thing!) His August 13th entry titled Creek Bed is absolutely stunning. In addition to some muy interesante y muy Mike-esque photography such as August 18th’s Silo Slice and August’s 17th’s Partial Door, Mike also posted a couple of shots of one of the most unique creatures I’ve ever seen. Don’t take my word for it, check out his August 16th’s Newest Friend. Mike is also taking a short summer break from the Blogosphere, and as with Frank, Mike has plenty archived to keep us amazed during his absence ….this by no way means he should linger any longer than absolutely necessary!
Closing out the past week, with an entry in the ‘Science Is Cool’ department, comes a couple of completely interesting and well written posts from Adam Benton of EvoAnth (that’s the UK’s Adam Benton, not to be confused with the US’s Adam Benton!). Adam’s August 16th post titled How “god” Evolved is extremely fascinating and presents some compelling research concerning the origins of religion, which we still don’t have a complete understanding of, and the concept of a ‘high god’. It also includes a few of Adam’s clever, and signature, charts explaining ‘what he just said’. Adam closed out my week yesterday with his equally interesting follow up titled How “god” evolved #2: the religious revolution. Adam notes that this second post in no way is an attempt to game the popularity of his previous post …which became his most viewed post in just 3 days. No Adam, it’s because they’re that interesting…. well done.
Have a great week, and keep looking up …that’s where we keep the stars!
In a recent post titled Frame of Mind, the ever charismatic El Guapo of Guapola, The Asylum Within The Asylum. And music! expressed a somewhat dire, yet basic and simple, need. The need of a Palm Tree.
As it so happens, palm trees fall squarely into the category of …things I love. This should not be surprising. Palms are, after all, a primary necessity of existence. In fact, aside from oxygen …which is HIGHLY over-rated and can be quite lethal, and water…which the development of tequila has all but eliminated the need for and which can also be lethal…palm tress are, without question, our most primary need.
Despite the somewhat dubious estimations that more people die annually from palm trees than from shark attacks (or was it lightning strikes?), palm trees alone can not be held responsible for these deaths. Palm trees do not kill people, falling kills people. It’s a gravity issue. This also should not be confused with the rather alarming statistics of people being killed by falling coconuts. Since not all palm trees have coconuts it would be faulty logic to link coconut induced death to palm trees, the tree is simply a delivery device aided by a combination of gravity (again!) and one’s desire to hang around under a coconut laden palm.
Since a single palm exists in a near state of perfection, the only thing more perfect would be two palms strategically located the precise distance apart from which to suspend a hammock. The amalgamation of palm and hammock is unprecedented in it’s ability to simultaneously induce relaxation as well as cause it’s user to appear amazingly ‘laid back’. Anyone requiring evidence of this please see my December, 2011 post titled Hammocks.
And now, for El Guapo, as well as anyone else who’s bothered to read this far:
The Palm And A Few Of Its Many Moods
would someone dim the lights please…..
All photography – Alex Autin
Images may be clicked for a larger view…yes, even the ones which are already ridiculously large.
The above video is of Swiss pilot Yves Rossy’s 2011 eight-minute flight over the Grand Canyon. According to his website, Jetman, Rossy is the first, and only man, in the history of aviation to fly with a jet-propelled wing. How exciting! I was introduced to Rossy this past week by a April 19th post on Galicia Futura titled Jetman: el sueño de volar hecho realidad (the dream of flying come true). The post features a breath-taking 4 minute documentary, directed by Evert Cloetens, of Rossy flying over the mountains of Switzerland. If you’re as blown away by Rossy and his jet-propelled wing as I am…check it out! Exciting!
On the subject of EXCITING, there was also no shortage of excitement in the blogosphere this past week! One of the most exciting happenings was Michael Housewright, The Blissful Adventurer, being Freshly Pressed for his April 18th post Hong Kong – Hipstamatic Tour. Congratulations Michael!! It’s always wonderful when one of the nice guys wins, and they come no nicer than Michael. If you haven’t as yet, stop by Michael’s to say hello and check out his work!
Also generating excitement this past week were a few posts I place in the ‘Not only do I LIKE you, I freaking want to BE you!’ category. On Sunday, April 22nd, Spiritual World Traveler helped me to pleasantly close out the week with an amazing photo-essay of her visit to Bran Castle in Romania. Her post, The Enchanting Windows of Count Dracula’s Castle, is indeed enchanting and features some STUNNING window photography taken on an eerily overcast Romanian day. Grab a cup of coffee and join her!
Also, in the ‘I Want To Be You’ category is William Allen of Long Time Spent. William opened the week with China – Part 1 – with supporting holiday snaps in which, through the use of his excellent photography and words, William relates his adventures in China along with his friend Shane. William has the gift with his photography of making one feel as though they are right there along with him. He then closes out the week, along with Shane, in Tian Shan, China. This may seriously be my favorite post of the week. And yes William…I am very, very, envious!
If it weren’t known before that I want to be El Guapo, of Guapola, then let it be known now! Though, technically, Guapo’s adventure began the previous week with his April 15th post titled An Adventure – Learning To Skydive , we all had to wait till his April 18th post, An Adventure – Learning To Skydive Part 2, before learning if Guapo actually survived the adventure! He definitely left us hanging! As always with Guapo…it’s fun, it’s exciting…and it’s hilarious. Of course you don’t have to wait, you can check out both parts of his adventure NOW!
Refusing to be outdone by the travelers and adventures a couple of my favorite writers added to the excitement of the week. White Lady In The Hood easily gets the nod as ‘Most Hilarious Post Of The Week’ with her April 22nd post titled My Skipper. Through her words she completely illustrates the insanity which takes place anytime a man begins a sentence with the words ‘Hold my……’ And no, of course I wont finish it! Go there and find out for yourself!
Another writer which I admire greatly, Richard of The Last Song I Heard, helped to supply me with excellent weekend reading with his April 21st post titled Band Of Brothers Requiem – Michael Kamen. While it’s true I enjoy all of Richard’s work, I liked this one in particular. It contains all of the honesty, elegance, and courage in writing which Richard is building a reputation towards. Check out this post…or really, any of his posts. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ll close out another exciting week with my favorite song of the week…from World Music, of course! This one titled Malaniña from Havana Mambo, an Italian salsa band formed by members from Cuba in 1994. Enjoy!!
Thanks and have a GREAT WEEK!
Inspiring: Generating enthusiasm or creativity: making someone feel more enthusiastic, confident, or stimulated. See Carl Sagan.
Recently I was mentioned in regards to The Very Inspiring Blogger Award. The mention came from Carina of L’amore e forte come la morte. Through her blog Carina strives to present us with beauty from around the world, and in her efforts she succeeds. She also has been very supportive of me and my work here, and I wish to thank her dearly for this mention. It, and she, are very appreciated.
Inspiration comes in many forms. I find incredible inspiration in our planet and it’s diversity of life, the awe of the cosmos, the thirst for discovery, and the thrill of exploration. I’m also deeply inspired by scientists, artists, writers and philosophers as these are the ones who through their passion drive us towards our future, who asks the questions, who strive for the answers, and who never, ever, settle for less than truth and understanding.
Inspiration is never found in slogans, rhetoric, or empty sentimentality. It can not be bought or sold, nor will we find it in pretentious feel-good quotes used to sell calendars and self-help books. True inspiration is not marketable.
As with any blog award The Very Inspiring Blogger Award has rules, and as with any blog award I will ignore them. Those interested in the rules can find them here on Carina’s site. I will not list 7 inspiring facts about myself or the things I love. This blog being entirely focused on the things I love would make this a completely redundant act.
As the title of this award suggests, in deciding on who I will now in turn mention I looked for bloggers who truly inspire me. This award is somewhat different than the others…it seeks to recognize the ‘blogger’ rather than the blog itself. So while the following do indeed contribute incredibly inspiring content, my mention is not for the content…but for the person behind the content.
And my 3 nominees for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award are:
A Frank Angle - My mentioning of Frank is probably entirely unnecessary as I doubt anyone reading this is not familiar with him. He has also most likely been mentioned for this award more times than I’ve
pigged-out sophisticatedly and in a lady-like manner indulged in Ben and Jerry’s. I recently learned that Frank is working on Post Number 900 and my mind can’t begin to wrap itself around that number. His writing is clear and concise, his subjects are interesting and well researched, and his views are varied and thought-provoking. He also has one of the most lively and intelligent comment sections I’ve ever read. A few of Frank’s recent, and inspiring, posts include:
On The Universe – March 14, 2012
On Evolution – April 4, 2012
On Personal Stuff – March 31, 2012
unastronomy - Jason holds a B.S. Marketing Management and is currently working towards two masters degrees – M.S. Space Studies (Planetary Science concentration) and M.S.Ed. Learning Design and Technology…and if that alone is not enough to totally inspire me…he’s also a Texan who loves BBQ! (Is there any other kind of Texan!?) On top of this, Jason is one hell of a nice guy who completely tolerates the likes of myself
trolling reading his blog trying to conceptualize the amazing and exciting things he writes about. In his ‘About’ page Jason states that his passion lies in astronomy and he hopes to write about/teach the subject in the not too distant future. Should we point out to him that through his blog he is already doing this? Welcome to the future Jason! And thank you for your tireless inspiration. A few of Jason’s recent, and awe inspiring posts include:
The Universe at the Speed of Light [Infographic] - April 13, 2012
Hubble’s Panoramic View of a Turbulent Star-making Region – April 17, 2012
Let’s Explore Next Generation Space Trains – April 16, 2012
UPDATE: In an effort to include a broader range of (EXCITING!) topics, Jason had updated the title of his blog from unastronomy to Wired Cosmos. Cheers Jason!
Heavens With Lamps – The writer of Heavens With Lamps (I’m sorry, I don’t know his name) is an educator, real estate agent, amateur astronomer, surfer, cyclist, hiker, and some-time philosophizer living in Mauritius. If these things alone are not inspiring, then I don’t know what is! His enthusiastic, informative, and interesting posts are like manna to a very, very, very amateur
astronomer, star-gazer, looks up in awe, confusion, and bewilderment to the night sky person such as myself. His Star-Gazing Fever is infectious, his passion to learn and to share his knowledge is irresistible, his ability to find and post the coolest stuff EVER is relentless… put these together and it equals inspiring on a HUGE scale. Thank you! A few of Heavens With Lamps’ recent, exciting and inspiring posts include:
100 Guide Posts in the Sky – April 20, 2012
Astronomy Lectures for FREE – April 10, 2012
DO YOU ACCEPT??? – April 15, 2012
Wow…am I really finished writing this awards post? Damn, that was really freaking long. At least it’s over, now I can have some Ben and Jerry’s, you know, for lunch. Umm…I wonder if it’s considered weird to type to one’s self like this. It’s ok…no one ever reads these last bits. Ah, ok…cool!
Versatile: changeable, able to move easily from one subject, skill, or task to another, able or meant to be used in many different ways.
The Versatile Blogger Award is, in itself, an example of versatility. I’ve been presented this award by a variety of fellow bloggers, and with each nomination it seems the rules of the award changes. Change is good. Being mentioned is good…so why haven’t I, up until now, formally acknowledged this award? I’ll explain, it’s…
I’ll explain further…
When originally presented this award the rules involved writing 15 things about myself, then passing the award to 15 fellow bloggers. 15? Really? 15 things about me? Are you sure? While I consider myself to be as interesting as the next person, I’ve no doubt even my own mother would not care to read 15 things about me.
Nominate 15 fellow bloggers? Again…really? 15? I’ve no problem in supporting and promoting other bloggers, in fact it’s something which I enjoy, however the math involved here doesn’t quite add up and rather quickly would lead to the demise of the award itself. I’m thinking whomever originated this award might not have been, dare I say, mathematically inclined, or went with the number 15 out of some bizarre award-death-wish.
If I were to pass this award to 15 bloggers today and each of those 15 were, in turn, to pass it to 15 bloggers tomorrow, in less then 24 hours this award would have been presented to 225 bloggers.
If on the third day these 225 bloggers were to then pass this award forward, the number would then reach 3,375.
Assuming all 3,375 would be good sports and continue the chain, on the fourth day we would have 50,625 Versatile Blogger Award recipients.
And on the fifth day; 759,375.
The sixth day the number would reach ‘oh, for fuck’s sake’ proportions and the Versatile Blogger Award would blink out of existence as quickly as green-curry exits the host body of someone who’s recently consumed gross amounts of tequila. If you’ve never experienced the green-curry-tequila effect on the human bowels…I urge you to take my word as to it’s unique unpleasantness.
Mathematical ignorance and bowel movements aside, I’ll get on with this award…
I’ve been presented this award by the following gracious, and talented, bloggers:
I gratefully thank my peers in their mentioning of …things I LOVE, and congratulate them on the recognition of their own individual work. It was Richard, however, who brought some mathematical sanity to this award by, in a moment of great versatility, changing the rules a bit and limiting his mentions to a much more rational number of 3 fellow bloggers. I will take his lead, not only on the number of nominees but also as to the number of ‘random facts’ about myself.
Random Alex Facts:
1 – As a child I was terrified of Santa Claus. To this day I remain dubious towards any being who not only watches everything I do, but also makes judgmental notations as to my activities. I am not at all comforted by the notion of some weirdly dressed man sneaking into my home in the middle of the night…unless I know this man intimately and he is dressed as Robin Hood (long story). As for Santa Claus…just leave the shit and go, seriously.
2 – I’ve been passionately kissed by a Portuguese Naval Commander, and no, I will not go into details. (Ladies, if you haven’t experienced this…do so asap!)
3 – I’ve been bitten by a brown recluse spider (more than once), stung by a scorpion (once). I’ve experienced hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. I’ve been mugged, stalked, and attacked in a taxi. I’ve been in a plane which blew an engine over the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve eaten Nicaraguan food. I’ve been to Georgia. And yet I still live. Fear me!
Now for my three (3!) nominations:
1 – Mathematical Mischief
Not only do I greatly admire the work being done by Josh and the staff at Mathematical Mischief…but this award itself speaks volumes as to why education in Math is so very needed. Thank you Josh! (I also trust Josh to correct any math errors I may have made in presenting this award.)
2 – Wrong Hands
Brilliantly clever cartoons by John Atkinson. John’s unique and twisted look at everyday life never ceases to put a smile on my face, and sometimes, even hours later, just thinking about his cartoons causes me to actually laugh out load.
3 – FASAB (Fight Against Stupidity and Bureaucracy)
He may be mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, but he’s also a talented writer who’s amazingly readable, amazingly funny, and amazingly nice…despite being amazingly ‘mad’.
I pass this Versatile Blogger Award to these bloggers purely in appreciation, and enjoyment, of their work. As always, this mention requires no action what so ever on their part. If they would like to participate and pay it forward, here are the RULES:
1 – Thank the person who presented you with the award. (This would be me, guys! )
2 – Post the incredibly versatile Versatile Blogger Award logo on your blog.
3 – Post 3, 7, 15, or 42 interesting facts about YOU!
4 – Nominate 3, 7, 15, or 42 blogs you consider to be ‘versatile’.
5 – Notify your 3, 7, 15, or 42 nominees as to their award.
6 – Fin!
Thanks again to the wonderful bloggers who’ve mentioned …things I LOVE. Cheers!
Thanks to this past week Spring is officially with us…those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, that is. Along with the arrival of warmer weather and the digging out of summer clothes comes the want to get out and into some travel and adventure…and there was no shortage of evidence to support this in the blogosphere this past week!
El Guapo of Guapola: The Asylum Within The Asylum. And music! got the ball rolling on Tuesday morning with his much awaited post IT. IS. SPRING!!! And time for the Spring/Summer Stupidity! Guapo’s ‘Days Til Spring’ counter finally hit zero…and there was much celebrating and general foolishness (not unlike most Guapo posts!). The post includes the Annual Listing of Events in which Guapo details some of the awesome plans for adventure including such activities as surfing, rock climbing, and flying trapeze. Sign. Me. Up!
Also tingling my adventure senses this week was Erica from Experience North Cape. That’s North Cape, Norway, for the geographically challenged…and it is beautiful! Erica excited me to no end with her March 20th post Dreaming of Kirkeporten: An Easy Hike with a Spectacular View featuring some amazingly atmospheric foggy and soggy photography fully illustrating the Norwegian expression ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad/poor clothing.’ Gotta LOVE that! The next day Erica follows this up with A Bucket List that Kicks A Little…. which details the adventure of 17 year-old Tonje Helene Blomseth who along with her Siberian Husky, Maddox, became the youngest person in the world to walk the length of Norway. Only a mere 2,500 km (1,553 miles)! Solo! Are you shitting me?! No, I am not! Check it out! And while you’re there also check out some of Erica’s ‘too good to be true’ photography! The word ‘stunning’ is an understatement. Erica is living a dream life…and she’s all the proof one needs that it can be done! If her blog doesn’t make you want to book a flight, immediately, to Norway…dial 911… because you’re obviously in need of medical assistance.
Before booking that flight, however, you’ll definitely want to pay a visit to Airports Made Simple. The folks there have a couple of goals…to provide critical information about airports (how many terminals, how soon to arrive, security line times, rental car situation and much more) and to have a sense of humor about it. They succeed in both, and in a big way. Without them how else would I know of the travel danger involving Snow Globes and their threat to the world’s airport?! Or what to wear (and what NOT to wear!) while waiting on a flight. Aside from the humor..of which there is plenty…Airports Made Simple is packed full of useful, time saving, completely cool travel information and if you visit right now you can get in on helping to select their next Airport Summery. Votes Are Needed!
No adventure/travel round-up would be complete without a mention of Eric Murtaugh’s A Freelance Writer’s Observations On Adventure. Eric simply never stops and this past week was no exception. From A Hundred and One Uses for a Bandana, to the very important questions asked in Adventure: How much is too much? Eric proves he is interested in all aspects of adventuring…not just his adventures, but ours as well. One of the coolest things about Eric’s blog, besides Eric himself, is the lively, fun, and informative exchange which takes place in his comment section. As usual, well done Eric.
Closing out an adventurous week be sure to pay a visit to Antonio Pinon and check out his March 19th posting of the charming video Hyperactive Marienkafer which brilliantly, through the use of animation, shows the sense of adventure and discovery which is naturally found in all children…even Lady Bug children! If you’ve kids at home I strongly suggest viewing it with them. I should also mention that Antonio is recently back from a 3 week adventure of his own, and it’s great to have him back!
My absolute favorites of the week:
Cheers and have a great week!
The past week here in San Antonio came in like a lamb with some amazing spring-like weather early on, then turned into a lion late in the week with cold rain storms on Friday and Saturday (perfect excuse to stay in bed!), then on Sunday the week closed out with one of THE MOST perfect early spring days ever!
As awesome as the weather is here in SATX , it’s no match for the weather in Space this past week. The Sun gave us a very exciting week of solar flare activity and I was kept up to date on all the excitement by visiting one of my favorite Astronomy news blogs…AstroNews. On March 7th AstroNews posted the very exciting events in a post titled Another Major Flare – Class X5. In addition to the solar events AstroNews also ran stories this week on Space Weather – Explosions on Venus , Galaxy Cluster Hidden in Plain View, and many others! And yes, I DO spend WAY too much time there….
There was also much excitement inside the blogosphere this week with El Guapo from Guapola: The Asylum Within The Asylum. And music! being FRESHLY PRESSED for his post titled The New York City Subway. A Brief Rant. Finding out about this Fresh Pressing instantly sent me running through the house yelling….Guapo got Fresh Pressed! Guapo got Fresh Pressed! Unfortunately, my room mate was having a meeting with his business accountant right at this very moment. As I ran past his home-office door screaming hysterically, I overheard my room mate saying…‘So Carl, have you met Alex?’ A great big high-five to Guapo! Well deserved. This recognition from wordpress is proof that nice guys do indeed win.
Also catching my attention this past week were a number of photo-blogs. Mike, over at Mike’s Look At Life, chimed in early in the week with an amazing 3rd installment of his Red Door Series. Red Door 3 is without doubt my favorite in this series so far. But Mike was hardly finished for the week, his Old House (….kinda creepy Mike) and Shadow Door were equally stunning, and really demonstrates Mike’s love of old places….a love I share right along with him. If only I could photograph them as beautifully as he does.
Kathryn Dawson, of The Art of Letting Go, is another photographer I’ve been following closely lately…though I can barely keep up with her! Not only do I greatly enjoy her photographic skills but I also enjoy the stories accompanying her work. On March 6th she had me completely sold with a post titled, Day Sixty Five: Extreme Skateboarding. The opening photograph of this series featured a shot so beautiful I wanted to climb into it and just hang out for a while….a long while. Kathryn then surprised me the very next day by posting what may be one of the coolest posts I’ve ever read. In Day Sixty Six: Wet, Wet, Wet, not only do you get more of her brilliant photographs but you also get an incredibly interesting story about someone in her house doing ‘things to the plumbing’. It’s WHO is in her house working on the plumbing that is so interesting. And, you know what? I won’t spoil it. Go there and find out for yourself!
Frank, of A Frank Angle, also added to the excitement of this week with his post titled On A Wave featuring some jaw-dropping photographs by his friend Steve Ancik taken during a dream-come-true visit to The Wave at Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area. The article accompanying the shots is equally interesting and exciting, and the Q and A comments with both Frank and Steve was probably the highlight of the entire event. A Frank Angle, it’s how blogging is done.
Musically this week, of course, features Xandi and the staff over at World Music. This week the crew melted me with some completely luscious Latin rhythms in videos such as Fruko Y Sus Tesos, from Columbia with the song – El Preso, and from Brazil Elis Regina with her song Águas de Março, and my favorite of the week…from Argentina León Gieco with Hoy Bailare (A video that I can not BELIEVE Frank didn’t ‘Like’! WTF?! ) Also rocking me this week was Don In Massachusetts with his late night posting of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Look At Little Sister! OMG!! Much thanks for that one Don!
It was an equally exciting week for writers especially since this week I had the time to give them the attention they deserve. Brian Westbye, who’s work I always enjoy, posted Intersection: First Movement followed by Intersection: Second Movement early in the week. Both pieces were exceptional, and I wasn’t the only one wanting more of this series. Another writer quickly becoming a favorite, Frivolous Monsters took the later part of the week with a pair of very interesting pieces; Tales From The Coffee Shop on Friday and Further Tales from the Coffee Shop coming in on Sunday. He promises there will be more in this series! These are both excellent writers who’s skill and ease with which they seem to work blow me away. I highly recommend checking out both if you haven’t as yet.
Cheers and have a great ‘spring is coming!’ week!
Earlier this week I opened my in-box to learn I had been nominated for The Liebster Blog Award. While thrilled with the nomination I then waited to learn if I had actually won. I’ve seen award programs before, in every case there is a handful of nominees which are then narrowed down to one actual winner. Apparently this is not the case in regards to this particular award. (Also, apparently there is no cash prize associated with it either. Wtf?!)
My nomination was presented to me by Colline who is a wonderful writer/photographer (not to mention a very fine human being!) and who has been schooling me in how this blogging thing works. Her blog is titled Colline’s Blog, and I applauded her for being wise enough to not saddle herself in by titling it something completely absurd such as Things I Love (Things I Love? Really?! How freaking creative…)
So, what exactly is this Liebster Blog Award anyway? Well, I’m about to tell you. Liebster is German for ‘dearest’. In the blogosphere, this translates to ‘I like you, I really, really like you’. (And we all know how much we all want to be LIKED!) The award is presented to new bloggers with fewer than 200 followers in appreciation of their work and also in encouragement that they should continue this work.
As with any award…THERE ARE RULES, and they are as follows, so listen up:
1 – Thank the fellow blogger who nominated you. (Thank you Colline, you are DEFINAELY appreciated!)
2 – Link back to the person who awarded you. (BAM! —> Colline’s Blog)
3 – List five blogs that have affected your writing in a positive manner. (This will, without question, lead to much sadistic pleasure on my part!)
4 – Leave comments on those blogs to let them know of their nominations. (Oh, I certainly will…)
5 – Post the award on your blog. (I‘m assuming this final bit to be optional, however one should refer to the official Liebster Award Guide Book and certainly not take my word for it.)
Now, without further ado, my nominations… (These are listed in no particular order. In actuality, I taped the names of my nominees to five mice, then released the mice in the same room with my room-mate’s cat allowing her to determine the order based on which mouse she tortured first, second, and so on. She completely lost interest after the first two mice at which point I placed a large box in the room with the name Schrödinger written on it. It was then that things got REALLY weird…. I should point out that taping pieces of paper to mice is totally humane, so not a word from PETA! Had I stapled the paper to the mice, then you could bitch.)
And the nominees are:
1 - Antonio Pinon – Antonio does not list stats on his blog such as number of followers (though something tells me he is, indeed, a man interested in statistics). I’ve no idea how many followers he has, nor do I particularly care. My affair with Antonio’s blog began innocently enough with meeting over my morning coffee. It then led to lunch, and most recently, dinner. He has quietly, eloquently, and thoroughly amazed me, awed me, and brought me to tears (though we’ve agreed not to mention this, my apologies). He is also kind enough to respond to my gushing comments. If you haven’t had your mind completely blown recently by the universe, the 10th dimension, how the brain works, planetary astronomy, or any number of other extremely interesting subjects, I highly recommend a visit to Antonio Pinion.
2 – She Kept A Parrot – Again another blog with no interest in posting popularity stats, and the only Photo Blog to make my list of nominations. I enjoy photo blogs, and there are many excellent ones, but rarely am I so amazed by not only the work, but also the courage behind the camera. This woman has not only talent, but also guts, charisma, intelligence, and a large serving of love-of-life. The introductions accompanying her work are as brilliant, as honest, and as engrossing as the work itself. I’ve a feeling this is a woman who has never faked a smile in her life, but yet has effortlessly garnered millions of them. Well done.
3 – God Is Not Here – This is Chris Lim’s blog in which he tackles the often-times controversial issues regarding Rationality versus Religion, a subject which I find extremely interesting. Chris is an outspoken, informed, and intelligent humanist, atheist, and anti-theist. He is a very talented and engaging writer, and he’s also a very friendly and approachable man. He even tolerates my ogling over Brad Pitt and Rafael Nadal in his comments section. I’ve no doubt Chris does not in any way need my encouragement in order to continue to do what he does. This, however, does not mean I’m letting him off the hook. Chris, consider yourself Liebster-ized.
4 – Eric Murtaugh – Eric is cool, and so is his blog. It’s my favorite adventure blog. I was quite shocked to find he had less than 200 followers, but he’s getting there….so I’d better write quickly. Eric’s blog was one of the first I stumbled upon when I entered the world of wordpress. It was an instant favorite, and still is. Eric is a challenging man, and I adore people who push, inspire, and not only challenge themselves, but also challenge others. His writing is top notch, interesting and intelligent, and he’s not above getting silly. Reading his ‘About’ says it all….‘Plain and simple: I’m a sucker for adventure.’.
5 – Matthew Minas – Matthew is truly a new kid on the block when it comes to wordpress blogging. Matthew opens his ‘Me’ page by saying he ‘kind of likes pretty much everything’. (I could pass this nomination to him simply for not being silly enough to actually title his blog this…unlike someone else.) When first stumbling upon Matthew’s blog it took me only long enough to read his broad range of interests for me click ‘follow’. These interests include Philosophy, Physics, Cosmology, Writing, Science, Atheism, Science Fiction, Film, Music and I could go on and on. His posts are very well written, very well researched, and exciting as hell. And I can’t just read them once, I feel compelled to read them over and over. If I were to ever meet Matthew I would probably engage him for hours just to hear him speak on some of the many interests we have in common. Instead I’ll tag him with this nomination along with my sincere wish that he continue to do what he does.
While my approach to this award may be a bit sarcastic, I hope the above mentioned bloggers will understand the sincerity in my nominations. This is my attempt to thank them for feeding my addiction to learning, truth, discovery, and exploration. As for how they respond to this nomination….that’s entirely up to them. They can play along with the chain letter, or they can dismiss it. I will not think, or feel, a damn thing either way.
(I should however point out that if they chose to break the chain it will undoubtedly result in the end of the universe. This is something which will highly piss off Stephen Hawking as he is clearly not finished with it as yet. This will also likely result in many cosmologists losing their funding and no one wants that kind of blood on their hands. At the very least breaking the chain could trigger an early 2012 Apocalypse thus denying the Mayan calendar folks, the Scary-Freakin-Asteroid folks, and the Terrestrial/Solar Pole Reversal folks their moment of glory…and our opportunity to properly stock up on toilet paper and bottled water. )
Me – “It doesn’t look venomous to me, gonna get a picture.”
Aussie Bloke – “Oi…I wouldn’t get too close!”
Me – “Why? Do you know what kind it is?”
Aussie Bloke – “Yeah, mate, its my least favorite kind.”
Me – “Really? What kind is that?”
Aussie Bloke – “The not-dead kind.”
* * * *
Yep, the words…‘it doesn’t look venomous to me’ actually came out of my mouth and, no, it wasn’t in reference to The Wallaby, but rather in reference to a snake I had just suddenly come across in a car park. And just as with anything else I ‘suddenly’ come across…I am ‘suddenly’ an expert…THE Snake Specialist! I am not only fearless, I am also an authority on all things venomous. I am Venom Woman and I was having my very first Australian snake encounter! (Please see Photographic Evidence #2 – The Snake) I actually very nearly stepped on this snake, but it wasn’t my fault! The snake was hanging out in a very non-snake-like location; the car park behind the Rock Pool. (A car park is a ‘parking lot’ to us American types.)
I managed to whip out my Nikon camera in time to snap a pic before the snake slithered away. (At this point I think it important to make clear that I ADORE Nikon cameras, always carry a Nikon camera with me in my travels and would swear on my mother’s collection of whimsical ceramic hummingbird figurines that Nikon cameras are the best in the world!)
Checking the photo I was instantly delighted by the out-of-focus, fuzzy quality to it. As Mitch Hedberg pointed out, ALL photos of fantastical creatures are in fact blurry and out-of-focus. See any picture of Big Foot, Sasquatch, The Loch Ness Monster, or The Abominable Snowman if you have any doubt. These creatures are, in actuality, fuzzy. It is not the photographer’s fault (and certainly not the fault of Nikon cameras!). If you’re ever in the woods and come across a fuzzy creature….RUN!
Though I AM a snake specialist, I did feel the need to get a second opinion on my car park snake. So I shared the photo with my friend Ben, down in Melbourne, because he’s awfully hot…I mean nice, he’s awfully NICE…and yep, he’s also really fun to share with. No, he’s not an ophiologist or a herpetologist, but he IS a photographer and a bartender, and damn good at both from what I understand. Furthermore, he’s been to the Out Back….more than once, so yeah…snake expert. I also imagine he would sound really Australian saying the word ‘herpetologist’! (I should, in addition, point out that I’m fairly certain Ben also uses Nikon cameras.)
Melbourne Ben – “Hmmm, might be a taipan.”
Me – “So, taipan it is then.”
Melbourne Ben – “…….maybe. I’m not sure. Kinda looks like one.”
Me – “So, yeah……taipan.”
Melbourne Ben – “Hard to say, the pic’s a lil bit fuzzy.”
Me – “Well, yeah!”
Melbourne Ben – “Were you using a Nikon camera?”
Me – “……..of course.”
Melbourne Ben – “Hmmm.”
Now for you Steve Erwin fans, the taipan is what he referred to as the Fierce Snake.
The Taipan : (It helps to read the following description using an Aussie accent, preferably Victorian.) Australia has 30 different kinds of venomous snakes. The largest and most poisonous of them is the taipan. Taipans eat rats and hang in car parks.
CRIKEY!!!! Now with that rather unpleasant, though not completely uncool, taste in our mouths, I think I should quickly direct our attention to Photographic Evidence No. 3 – The Possum.
While the sight of the (possible) taipan caused me to (naturally!!) draw nearer to it, the initial sighting of the possum caused me to – well – scream, and not at all un-little-girl-like. I’m sure, given the time of night, most neighbors were thinking the sound to be that of a Bush-stone Curlew. (See Photographic Evidence No. 4 – The Bush-stone Curlew, aka The Screaming Woman Bird.)
It was nearly 10 pm and I was in the home of the wonderful and awesomely cool North Queensland family I was staying with. The boys, Jack(10) and Dillon(7), and I were playing video games and Jessica (13) was in her room being a 13 year old girl and having no interest what so ever in video games. Dillon, being more of a morning gamer, had fallen asleep, while Jack, being damn hardcore, was killing everything in sight. I, being a somewhat responsible adult, was remembering washing which needed to be hung out on the line. And, yes, before you ask, any time it is NOT raining in North Queensland during the ‘Wet’ is a good time to put clothes on the line. I was nearly finished and reaching down for the last piece to hang……….when there at my feet……and I mean RIGHT AT MY FEET…….was this large furry ‘thing’! (Please note, the ‘thing’ was furry, but not fuzzy, so I know immediately it is non life-threatening. This, however, does not stop me from screaming.)
Ok, where am I? Oh yep……screaming…….
I’m screaming and I jump back. In my defense I did not immediately identify this thing to be a possum. I seriously thought it to be a rat. A very, VERY, large rat. (Though I had never seen a rat there, apparently they are found in car parks else taipans would not be hanging there.) This ‘thing’ was not small, it was easily the size of a cat, a good size cat!
To make complete my freaked-out-ness…..as I backed away…….it advanced! It seemed to be sniffing my feet – closely, intently. This, I’ll admit, was making me very nervous. I then realized it was backing me further and further away from the house. Then with agility previously unbeknown to me, with the grace and swiftness of a gazelle (one that’s been targeted, separated from the herd, and facing certain death) I leapt over the furry creature and race towards the open back door. The possum followed – quickly. I shot across the utility area and into the boys bedroom, “Jack, come see this!”
“Whoa!” Jack stepped out of the back door. “It’s a possum!”
Me, looking cool – “Yeah…I…..I know that.”
Jack – “Back away! That thing will bite you and…..and scratch you.”
Me – “Nah, it’s alright. Ummm, it doesn’t look venomous to me.”
This made absolutely no sense, however it HAD worked for me once before. I was extremely cool at this point as the possum, having found a much more preferable target, was now following Jack.
Jack – “It’s after my feet!”
Me – “Oh wow, it’s so cute!”
Jack – “What do we do?”
Me – “Lets feed it!”
Jack – “Hell, yeah!”
Jack raced around to open the kitchen door and we were thinking……now, what would a possum like to eat…..
Me and Jack – “Chocolate cake!!”
Three pieces of chocolate cake later and the possum was still into it. Jack and I, at this point, felt certain we’d hit on it’s natural and proper nutritional diet! If not for the lateness of the hour we could have rang Ben in Melbourne to verify this, but the cake felt right and we went with it. At some point Jess, hearing the ruckus, came from her room and joined in the fun. We tried to wake Dillon but not even a marsupial hopped up on chocolate cake was match for the child’s X Box induced coma.
By this time the possum had climbed it’s way up to the top of the clothes line post, and was in no hurry to leave. It held out it’s little paws as if pleading (or jonesing)….
The Possum – “Oi, what else ya got?” (The possum was obviously a Queenslander, and possibly sporting a mullet.)
It’s big shiny eyes were now on nearly the same level as ours, only a bit higher. If it were planning to launch into an aerial attack, it was now in perfect position. It was then Jess who thought of feeding it an orange. I’m sure given the time Jack and I would have come up with that, but in the excitement of the moment the chocolate cake definitely seemed the go. Once rendered passive by the combination of highly refined table sugar and carbohydrates the possum agreed to be photographed. Don’t be put off by the pic, the possum is actually MUCH cuter than it appears. (The poor quality of the photo is to be blamed entire upon the photographer and not at all the fault of Nikon cameras….)
Thanks to Mitch Hedberg and Steve Erwin for their posthumous assistance in writing this piece, and also thanks to Ben in Melbourne for being extremely cool and stuff!
I LOVE…Moving! Moving is always exciting….leaving one place and going someplace new with new experiences, new neighbors, new options. Moving, for some, can also be a pain involving boxes, hiring a truck, and having to bribe a few friends with promises of beer if they come over and help you place said boxes into the back of said truck. This is usually not too bad. It’s when you ask them to also move a refrigerator, heavy furniture, and a washer and dryer that things get a little tricky. This usually requires LOTS of beer….especially if this move is taking place in the hottest part of the summer or the coldest part of the winter.
Yesterday was moving day for me. It was not a major long distance move, just from one part of San Antonio to across town, from one room-mate to another. Goodbye Deco District, hello Northeast Side! For me a move is not all that traumatic or stressful. I not only ‘travel light’, I also ‘live light’. All that was required was to throw my things into my pack, slip my laptop into it’s shoulder bag…and I was ready to go. No beer necessary….though its ALWAYS optional! I did have a bit of shock when loading my back pack….way too much stuff. It’s amazing how in just a few months of being in one location I can manage to collect things….little things like a few extra clothes, a new pair of flip-flops, extra-large industrial sized bottle of shampoo. (Really?! Does it need to be that freaking large?!) Not to mention 6 library books. No matter….somehow it ALL HAS TO FIT IN THE BACKPACK!
My friend BJ offered to help me move. In my case ‘helping me move’ pretty much involves only giving me a ride from point A to point B. While waiting for BJ to arrive I received a text from him….. ‘Feel like a hike?’ Now, most people would not even consider an impromptu hike right in the middle of ‘moving day’. To me, however, it sounded like fun. I should also mention that BJ has been known to take me to some pretty incredible locations….places I would never find without him…and I NEVER ask him where we’re going…I just jump in and go knowing it’ll be awesome. I also know that anytime when out with BJ there will be a moment when something ‘extreme’ will take place and I’ll be required to do something physically challenging. I tease him about this, and when that inevitable moment arrives and I’m forced to jump something, or climb over something, or crawl through something….I usually say to him….. ‘And THIS is why I don’t trust you!’
Yesterday was no exception, and I should have known right away. After receiving his text and replying that yes a hike would be awesome, he replied…. ‘It’ll be muddy…’ We’ve been getting an unusual amount of rain here in San Antonio. So I asked how muddy? His reply…. ‘Mucho muddy!’
We got to the location about 4 in the afternoon, and as he promised it was muddy….MUCHO! But as usual with BJ, it was awesome. He had been telling me about this place and how cool it is, so I was happy to be finally checking it out. As we hiked further and further in, and as the mud got heavier and heavier, he began to point out the places up on the top of the rock wall to our right where climbers had sunk their anchors for rock climbing. Very cool!
Then it happened, the ‘this is why I don’t trust you!’ moment. He stops and without saying anything starts to climb the wall. Next thing I know he’s at the top looking down at me. My only thought was ‘You’re shitting me, right?’ No, he wasn’t shitting me. He fully expected me to climb up after him…and it didn’t help that he made it look so freaking easy! But here’s the thing….I actually felt fear. I was afraid to climb the damn wall. In my defense my boots were incredibly muddy and the rock was wet and slippery. But, damn, that fear was not sitting well with me. I made my first attempt, and failed. I knew I only failed because of the fear….I’ve climbed before, and can climb, and I am 100% physically capable of climbing that wall. It was all about the fear of slipping and falling. And it was also about the fucking boots, I didn’t trust them. Finally I made a decision….I took off the damn boots. In my socks I then faced the wall and climbed it with no problem, no fear, no hesitation. My only regret was reaching the top and realizing that my camera was in my pack in the back of BJ’s vehicle…..so I’ve no photographic evidence of this!
Oh, yeah….as for my Moving Day…I arrived at my new home around 8pm, covered in mud, scratched and bruised, but happy. I found my new room-mate out back grilling sausages by the pool. He said nothing at all about my appearance, all he DID say was… ‘Hey Alex! Hope you’re hungry!’
I think I’m gonna like it here….
‘If you boat a lot, you’re known as a ‘boating enthusiast’. I like to boat, but I just don’t want to ever be referred to as a ‘boating enthusiast’. I hope they call me ‘a guy who likes to boat.’ ~Mitch Hedberg
I LOVE…Cycling! I feel the same as Mitch, but in reference to cycling…not boating. I don’t, in any way, consider myself a cyclist…but I do like to ‘cycle’, if that’s the correct term. If I WERE a cyclist I would probably have some really cool cycling clothes, cool cycling gear…oh, yeah….I would probably have a bike as well.
I had bikes when I lived in Australia and Timor, but since I’ve been back in the States…no bike. In those places riding a bike seemed natural. It was also fun and a great way to get around. Here, though San Antonio claims to be ‘bike friendly’ and in many ways I suppose it is, I’m just not seeing a bike as a practical means of getting around. I’ve friends who tell me there are some great mountain bike trails nearby, and I completely believe them, I just haven’t made the investment necessary to enjoy them.
The 3 things I enjoy most about cycling are:
1 – It greatly reduces the travel time of getting from point A to point B as opposed to walking.
2 – The way my thighs look when I’m cycling a lot. (Any activity which causes me to look at certain parts of my body and think… ‘Wow, that looks kinda hot! Are those MINE?!’ …is a good activity!)
3 – You get to name your bike!
Naming a bike is much more fun than naming a boat, though I’ve seen some very clever boat names. The bike I had in Australia was named ‘Silver’….but she was actually red. Silver was fearless and a trusted companion! She and I had many really cool adventures together. I bought her from a German woman for 75$AU….which was a steal! Silver’s accessories alone were worth much more than that. The woman was leaving Australia and wanted to make sure Silver went to a good home. Her boyfriend was definitely a CYCLIST, when I went to pick up Silver he spent over an hour with me going over her proper maintenance. At that point I knew I was getting a good bike. I, in turn, when I left Australia also sold Silver for 75$ and made sure she went to someone who would appreciate and take care of her.
In Timor I was fortunate enough to have the use of one of my friend Q’s bikes. This bike was named ‘Fury!’. (The exclamation mark is mine.) Fury! is probably the best bike I’ve ever ridden. I shit you not….Fury! was awesome. One of the coolest things about riding in Timor, I mean other than not getting hit and arriving home alive, was getting the bike serviced. In Timor the trails and roads are rough, and we rode often and hard ….so riding down to Loja Ma Li-Lait bike shop for servicing (or getting more tire patches!) was something I did about twice a week, and it was always an experience!
Another really cool thing about cycling in Timor is the Tour de Timor. Tour de Timor is a 5 day, 450 km, international Mountain Bike race which attracts over 300 cyclists from around the world. The race covers 9 of the country’s 13 districts and is one of the biggest events in Timor. Before you can ask….no, I did not participate! Are you on crack? I’m not fond of the expression…’life is too short’, because it’s usually followed by something very cliché. However, in my opinion….life IS too short to ride a bike uphill. I mean, for fuck’s sakes! Surely there is a better way to get up that hill. I’ve a couple of friends who are participants though, and who are part of Team Timor. These guys truly ARE cyclists, as opposed to my pseudo-cycling. I was lucky enough to ride with them every now and then when I’d run into them here and there around Dili.
These photographs were taken on a day out to the market in Dili, Timor Leste. It was my first time in this particular market. It was also a market which is not regularly shopped by malaes (foreigners). These are usually the kind of places I LOVE! Maybe the reason foreigners don’t frequent this market is because reaching it requires crossing four lanes of heavy traffic on Comoro Road, waking through puddles of who knows what, and fighting off the occasion rooster or pig…..but as they say…..getting there is half the fun!
~You should keep diving in, Alex. This is your specialty, your focus, your dedication. – Eric Murtaugh ……who’s awesome blog can be found here - http://ericmurtaugh.com/
I LOVE…Diving In! I once had a friend refer to me as ‘fickle’. This was because during World Cup 2010, when he asked me which team I liked I went on to tell him which team I liked in each of the 8 groups. The conversation went something like this..…
Him: No, no, no! You can’t have a team in each group. You can only have ONE team!
Me: (Quite stunned.) Why can I not have a team in each group? What’s the fun in that? What if my ONE team isn’t playing…or gets eliminated? I need options.
Him: You need options? No, you need a reality check. You’re too fickle.
Me: I am not! Explain to me why I can’t be completely excited about Brazil one day and then completely excited about Portugal the next.
Him: What the fuck?! Brazil!? Portugal?! They’re in the same group!
Me: I know. So?
Him: Didn’t you just say ONE team in each group?
Me: I’ve changed my mind. Two, I want two teams in each group.
Him: Two in each group? That’s half the teams playing in the entire fucking Cup! You want half the fucking teams?
Me: Yes…and you can have the other half. Woohoo! High-five!
Him: No, no high five. I’m not high-fiving you and your SIXTEEN fucking teams. I have one team.
Me: You can have Korea and Côte d’Ivoire….
Him: You have no conception of the word ‘loyalty’.
Me: I’m extremely loyal…
Me: To whatever I’m excited about at the moment.
Ok, so some may call me fickle or erratic, but I prefer to think of myself as curious, excitable, and fascinated by things around me. I do ‘dive in’ and I do it with both feet. I dive into romance, love, music, conversations, nature, exploration, discovery, the universe, and I can certainly dive into a large pizza with the works! (But no freaking anchovies!) I love learning and I absolutely love feeding off the passions of others….
You: I love popsicles!
Me: Me too!
You: Do you really?
Me: Well…I do now!
If someone is excited about something, I can’t help but feel that excitement and dive right in along with them. And I don’t want to go for a quick dip, I want to really experience it. I want to find, and revel in, that passion and excitement they feel. At this point some may be thinking that I have no convictions, no ideals, and no opinions of my own….but that’s not true. I’ve lots of them! In fact, that’s pretty much the entire purpose of this blog….things I LOVE. While I have tons of opinions, what I have very few of are rules….and the few I do have I’m very flexible with. I’m constantly changing the rules. Why go to all the hassle of breaking a rule when it’s easier to just change it? In my opinion, if you break a rule….it was probably a lot of fun, so eliminate the rule, eliminate the guilt, and enjoy yourself. Of course, there are some things I will not dive in to, some rules I will not break no matter how much some one else enjoys it….
You: I love anchovies!
Me: Me too! No, wait…did you say anchovies?
You: Yes, I love them!
Me: You’re weird….weird is good…
You: Don’t you like them?
Me: Nope, but…what else do you love?!
You: Quantum electrodynamics….
Me: Hell, yes! Tell me everything about it! You wanna go grab a popsicle?!
I LOVE…Hammocks! Hammocks are just cool. There is probably nothing which better illustrates the term ‘laid back’ than a hammock. I’ve met people who’ve told me, straight up, that they are ‘laid back’. The first thing which comes to mind is…show me a picture of you in a hammock, then I’ll believe you. I need evidence. This said, after going through literally hundreds of pictures, I can’t find a single picture of myself in a hammock. I clearly must not be nearly as laid back as I thought. I do however have a picture of a hammock I’ve laid back in. (See Photographic Evidence # 1)
This hammock is much cooler than it appears. It would look much cooler if someone were actually laying back in it. That person would also look cool. (It’s a scientific fact that people in hammocks, generally speaking, look much cooler then they normally would without the hammock.) One thing which makes this particular hammock extra cool is it’s location which is right outside my friend’s place in Airlie Beach. (And yes, that IS my friend’s house in Photographic Evidence #1. Also yes, it is an extremely cool house made even more so by the clever placement of the hammock in question.) Another thing which makes this particular hammock cool is the view from that hammock. (See Photographic Evidence #2)
Aside from the coolness and laid-back-ability of hammocks, they are also light-weight, portable, often colorful, and can be folded up to easily fit in a back pack…and I’m all for things which fit in a back pack! The absolute best place to hang a hammock is, of course, on a beach, and any beach will do. However, hammocks aren’t limited to beaches. My mom has a really nice one in her back yard, and I have friends who have hammocks in their living room instead of a couch and chairs. These people are extremely laid back and have the evidence to prove it. I once spent the night in a hammock outside on a porch in Managua. If you should attempt to do this please note: Hammocks, alone, are not an adequate source of mosquito protection, especially from Central American mosquitoes. Though I may have looked cool sleeping there, I did not look cool the following day. I have no photographic evidence of this, you’ll just have to take my word for it.