Sunday, December 05, 2010

My Best Friend...

My dog passed away this week, I can't recall the day. It was Wednesday, I think. Around 5pm in the evening, I saw him sitting on the porch. He usually does that during the day, it seemed a little late for him to do so so late. I dismissed it as him sleeping, but inside, I knew better. At 9pm, my uncle came by to tell me that he was dead.

I had Dino for thirteen years. I recall the day that my grandmother brought him home. Some guy was walking him down the street, my grandmother asked if she could have the dog, he said yes. And that was that. I became responsible for the little guy. I could never keep Dino indoors, so he had to go sleep in an igloo on the back porch. It was warm, but I never liked the idea of a dog so small being an outside dog. But I didn't have a say in the matter as my grandfather didn't want to deal with training him, so that was basically that.

This half dachshund/ half cocker spaniel mix brought a lot of fun times to my life, but I always felt I never gave as much as I received.

Standing over his little frame, frozen. Looking into the eyes that I just cleaned earlier that day (he was producing his own tears anymore, so he had a lot of gunk build up, had to give him medicine each day to clear it up for the last year), the question came into my mind.

Tears welled up in me. Every tear that poor dog could never produce on his own felt like they came out of me in spades. It wasn't cause I felt bad that he was dead, but I wondered, was I good enough for him?

I've had family members and loved ones pass away. And not a tear was shed for them. Not because I was heartless, but because with them, I could point out the good times. With Dino, I could point out the good times, but could he?

He must've. His tail wouldn't have wagged when he saw me, and barked at others. He wouldn't position himself when I sat down next to him so I can get that spot on his back that made his leg go spastic.

Still, that's where the tears came from. That's where the tears still come from.

I assume it's a fraction of what a parent must feel for their child when they go out into the real world. With them, I guess you've got to hope for the best. With Dino, I have to assume that the tail wags for me.

I wrapped him in a towel, and placed him in a plastic bag. I was told to by the vets. I put him in the back of my van, and drove to the Vets, I left him there. Not opting for the option to have his ashes. He wasn't my dog anymore. I left my dog on the porch at 6pm that night, sleeping. That's my good boy.

I swear, if it wasn't for my beautiful fiancé, it would've been a lot harder for me. No words could ever thank her for that.

Last year, I wrote a story on this blog. It was a story with my dog in mind. It's completely apt for this moment.

Location:San Francisco,United States

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Perfect SMod

Last night, I witnessed an event that has never occurred. Many will go their whole lives without ever having the opportunity to see a natural phenomenon. I was fortunate enough to see what happens when an unmovable object, an unstoppable object, and an object (contrary to popular belief) not too fat to fly collide in a Castle.

You get Star Fucking With Kevin Smith.

This was my first time at SModCastle, and the stars couldn't have aligned any straighter for me. From the amazing people who were in line with me, to the fucking orgasmic food from the food truck of Tapa Boy (I believe that was the name), things were setting up for a great show. And man, did the universe deliver.

Kevin came out and set up the show for us. This was going to be a unique experience in where we were going to learn more about Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer than what Wiki gets wrong about them.

Sure enough, every string of the heart, every elbow with a sense of humor was pulled and banged respectively as Kevin delved into the wonder that is Neil and Amanda which I will from now and all time refer to as Gai-Pal! Probably not.

As if that weren't enough, the Jacks and Jane of some trades had something special in store for us. Amanda Palmer was first up to bat.

Now I should make note, I have heard of Amanda Palmer, I have followed her on Twitter, but I have never heard a song of hers, or have heard her perform. It's just one of those things in life that weirdly works out that way for no other reason than because it did. I would liken the experience to that of a solar eclipse. You would think as a resident of Earth, that you would at least once in your life experience a solar eclipse. But you'd be surprised how many people have never been witness to one. Sure you've seen it on a documentary, and it sure as hell can't look any prettier than it does in the title sequence of the now-cancelled show "Heroes", but nothing can ever compare to the actual experience.

Amanda Palmer was my solar eclipse experience.

She made me laugh, think, and cry in a minute and forty seconds, and left me jaw-dropped. Just like a celestial movement, I couldn't believe it happened, I couldn't believe I was experiencing it, (hell, I couldn't believe this was coming from a ukulele!), but most importantly, I didn't ever want it to end. Most people sing songs, Amanda Palmer lives music. I still have goosebumps after watching her perform Half Jack.

I was left flabbergasted. I felt like someone birthed me. Kevin comes out after her performance and introduces Neil.

What? So soon? I needed a second to catch my breath. I was just given a glimpse into someone's BEING, how the hell are you going to introduce me to someone else right now? How the hell is Neil going to top that?

I'll tell you how, with a glint of his eyes and a smile.

If Amanda Palmer was like experiencing birth, Neil Gaiman is the slap on the ass that allows you to breathe your first breath.

You cannot imagine the joyful rarity there is in hearing a writer read his own work. As much as I can assume that having an audio book of Charlton Heston reading Coraline would be this side of morbidly awesome, no one person could ever read it the way the writer intended it, not truly anyhow.

And Neil delivered. He read a piece that is near and dear to every writer's heart. I believe I laughed louder than anyone in the room when he mentioned the T.V. being on as he wrote. Writers, in general, are recluse creatures, and each has its own methodology in writing, some do it at Starbucks, some do it in a log cabin in winter, and others do it late at night with the T.V. on as a light source and background noise. It was an honor to share this particular trait with Neil.

How does one top off a perfect evening? You do an encore, that's how! But not just any encore, we get a trifecta finish with Neil, Amanda, and Kevin doing an impromptu reading of an excerpt of American Gods.

Amanda ended the evening with one more song. And I filed out more energized than I started out in the evening, still trying to understand what Kevin has just done. He basically laid bare the souls of two incredibly talented individuals for all in the Castle to see, and we were walking away from that as if that was the norm in life. "This was L.A., we do magic for a living", was what was racing through my mind.

But then it hit me. There was magic to be had in this kingdom. There was a new castle, a SMod one at that, that was just as enchanted as any other, and it resided on Santa Monica Boulevard of all places. This was going to be the norm.

This was Star Fucking with Kevin Smith, come back next time, we'll do it all over again.

Friday, November 19, 2010

You Better Super Size your movie for $5 more... Or else...

I went to the movies this week to go watch Unstoppable. It was an average film with a cast that gelled to well for its own good. Tony Scott was working his clichéd cinematography, but thankfully he dialed back the "writing the dialogue on the screen as it's being said for no apparent reason other than it's a lazy way to drive the point home" thing he does. But I have to thank Tony Scott for this almost-train-wreck film about an almost train wreck, because if it were actually stellar, I may have missed what I found to be more entertaining than the film. Mainly, the way it was shown.

Let me backtrack to two hours before the movie. As Ruth and I walked up to the theater, we did the usual stare and search for the time the movie was showing, even though we checked before we left the house. The movie was playing at the time we thought it was, but then I noticed an in-between time slot that I didn't notice before. It was for the XD extreme digital theater. For $5 dollars more, you get to see a film in "extreme digital".

Again, this is not 3D. But "extreme digital". What's extreme digital you may ask? Well, according to Cinemark, it's a "wall-to-wall screen" (floor to ceiling as well, it seems) and boasts a "custom sound system". You can watch a 2D or 3D film in this theater, it's just... You know... EXTREME when you do. Bottom line, you get an extra ten feet of screen space and some more speakers than you do in the normal theater.

Unstoppable wasn't going to be the movie that was going to sell me on shelling out an extra 5 bucks. As long as it was in focus, that's all I was caring about for this flick.

As we go to our seats, previews are underway. We settle in, and the film starts. Again, nothing unfamiliar. Scott using his fancy cuts to set a tone for the rest of the film. Very pretty cityscapes and things whizzing by, probably trains.

About 30 minutes in, I notice it. At first I thought it was stylized, but as the scenes shifted from news coverage to the narrative, I saw it didn't change. The film was completely letterboxed. Now I'm not talking about black bars on the top and bottom of the screen, I'm talking about a good two feet of screen space all around the movie not being used.

The film was shot in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, so seeing bars at the top and bottom of the screen would have been normal. But bars on the side? That usually only happens as a stylized choice or if you're watching something that was shot in 4:3.

This shit was bugging me. I know the film was shot in 35mm, I could tell, and there were no cigarette burns (little marks on the right corner of the screen signaling the projectionist to switch reels), so I know this was being shown on the digital projector. This was, after all, a digital theater. And then a scary thought occurred to me.

Did they purposely make the film smaller to make their XD extreme digital theaters more appealing?

The thought plagued my mind, even after the movie, I walked around to see if I could find an employee not behind the concession stand that could answer this question for me. I went so far as to ask the person at the information counter, but alas, my lovely girl was hungry, so that was that for the asking.

The questions continued to flow. A digital movie is shown at 1080p in theaters with digital projectors. So a 1080p film in the regular theater vs. a 1080p film in the XD theater should look exactly the same, no?

Wait! Maybe the XD theater uses Sony or JVC's 4k projectors? Those projectors show films at 4096x2160!

Nope, turns out Cinemark theaters are an all BARCO chain, BARCO projectors are 2K projectors (1080p).

So with the only variable being the size of the screen (wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling in the XD screens), why would a film that should fit easily, screen edge to screen edge, in the normal theater, have so much unused screen space on the sides?

Aziz Ansari blogged a while back about his fake IMAX experience. Can it be that this is just another tactic used by theaters with no true Imax theaters to make you pay $5 more for the screen size that you should have gotten in the first place?

All I know is, there's one Imax theater in San Francisco, unless the film I'm going to see utilizes all 76x97 feet of screen space, I'm saving my 5 bucks for the already overinflated price of popcorn. Well, $5.75. I get free refills with the bigger one, and I'm totally going to come back after the movie for it, right?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why I Like Movies

It's telling the kid behind the counter which film I came to watch, the imagined moment where he judges me for telling him the title of a movie he would never watch. The same created moment when I hand the other kid the ticket that I quietly wish he didn't tear. All reservations disappear as I walk into the theater and the aroma that throws me back to the memories of a much simpler time, washes over me.

And though I would never in my life pay a five hundred percent mark up on popcorn, soda, or a hotdog anywhere else in the known universe; I do so here, happily, without question, and with a smile on my face. Perhaps it's for that blissful, infrequent moment where the popcorn dissolves in a medley of salt and butter on your tongue. Or the snap of a lovingly steamed hotdog with the perfect ratio of condiments to enhance the flavor. All washed down with that frosty, cold beverage that you know is mostly ice, but really don't care because heaven resides on your taste buds at the moment.

As you walk by the arcade, you fall into the cliché of thinking how kids don't know what it's like to truly have an arcade at the movie theater. The handful of games pale in comparison to the game rooms of old. Where the clickety clack of buttons can be heard as someone furiously attempts to pull off a combo, a reversal, or the infrequent "Babality".

As you make your way to the line, reality setting in as you remember that the reason you're not in that sorry excuse of an arcade room is because you have to queue in line now, mom and dad aren't around this time to hold your place. But it's there that the anticipation builds. Conversations are had about the film yet to be seen. Will it be good? Why it will rule? Why it will suck and the only reason why you're going to see it? And the every-so-often person that knows way more than he/she particularly should about the film and drops some mad knowledge on the folks in the line, whether someone asked or not (guilty).

The elation of the line moving. The rush to your seat. Are you a center sitter or aisle sitter? In the back, middle, lower tier? Whichever you decide, as long as it's not the "pit" seats, those are for the people who didn't come here early, and for those who like to crane their necks.

And there it is, the silver screen. As the theater fills, you watch the demographic of people filing in. Surprised to see the curious older couple that are coming in to opening night; annoyed just a tad at the person who brought the baby to the evening show. But you pay no mind, as the lights dim, and fifteen minutes of previews come on. Some funny, some not. Some so long that you wonder to yourself why should you go watch the movie now? And the rare teaser that is way too awesome, in both scale and how incredibly long you have to wait to see it.

The theater dims yet again. A studio logo comes up. And the world around you fades away. As do the worlds of the other occupants who have maximized the theater capacity.

For the the next ninety to one hundred and eighty minutes, you are watching the work, that probably started as a mundane thought that happened to stray across a scribe's mind and caught his attention.

That's why I love movies. Because of the person who laughed too loud, the one who cried, to the one who jumped noticeably more than anyone else. The fevered reaction of a crowd locked in a single emotion, or the lone user who illegally downloaded the movie and is now pressed to get the blu-ray. And if you're incredibly fortunate, twenty five years down the line, a whole new generation is introduced to an idea that you once had a long time ago and thought it would be a great idea to share it with the world.

Sure, there are other mediums that have longevity in their impacts on the world. But none so interactive as to effect an audience at their most open and intimate of circumstances.

And not one that requires you to wear 3-D glasses to do so.

- This post took longer than it should have, cause I douched it on my iPad.

Location:Colma Blvd,South San Francisco,United States

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pull Me Stranger

When thinking of the forces of nature, one hardly questions their validity or their absolute effects on things in this universe. We all take comfort in the fact that if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, at the very least we know that fucker is down for the count. How that poor, former sap(ling) goes down is actually coming into question. At least in space, that is.

Back in the 70's, we launched two probes to study Jupiter, Pioneer 10 and 11. Since then, they have been escaping our solar system, slowing down a bit from the Sun's gravity. But apparently they are slowing down a little more than expected. You can actually call it a small acceleration toward the sun.

This pioneer anomaly; as it's being called, originally I believe the scientific term was "Holy shit! What the fuck is that?", has no explanation whatsoever. Theories are as mundane as a measurement error to as extraordinary as the power of love (okay, that last one was mine).

If it's any explanation in-between, however, it could mean that our understanding of the fundamental forces of nature must change, and that life is not as simple as what goes up, must come down.

Just one more lesson on how whatever we think we know, we really have no idea.

- This post took longer than it should have, cause I douched it on my iPad.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The long and short of it. The long being shorter than it should be.

It was my birthday earlier this month. I turned 34. It was definitely one of the better birthdays I've ever had. Not just cause of the awesome gift my wife-to-be has given me which is the apparatus that I am currently writing this blog on, but mainly cause of the fact that I am a lucky man to be loved by some amazing people in my life. First and foremost being my girl.

When one does take stock of their lives (usually around milestones such as birthdays) it's easy to be dismissive of the little things that count so much toward making your day just that much better. I have called to wake up my girlfriend everyday for the last 3 years without fail. And today, I looked at my clock several minutes before the alarm that I have set to remind me to caller her went off, and it dawned on me how giddy I get when I know I'm about to call her. Hell, sometimes I can't wait to do so, so I call those couple of minutes sooner just to talk to her.

I am such a child.

But I swear, I would never want to lose that side of me for the world.

So what's my promise for this year? Try not to overlook the little gifts of my life. Especially if it's an iPad.

- This post took longer than it should have, cause I douched it on my iPad.

Location:San Francisco,United States

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Triceratops, We Hardly Knew You.

Images like this one are what captured my imagination as a kid. A tiny little tank like creature with three horns taking on some bad ass T-Rexes.

The Triceratops was my favorite dinosaur growing up. All that arsenal, and a herbivore? Why, that's a leash and some DNA away from being my new best pet! I was sorely disappointed in how underused it was in the film "Jurassic Park". Triceratops could have saved the day at the end! But no, he was just comic relief for a poop joke! Still, it was cool to see.

But like science always tends to do, here they come along with their logic and... Well, science. And they come to tell us that the Triceratops that we have known and loved never really existed. Seems like the Triceratops was nothing more than a juvenile version of a Torosaurus.

What's a Torosaurus? He's the little guy to the left. Looks just like a Triceratops, right? Well, the differences are that as a juvenile the frill on the Torosaurus' head (formerly Triceratops, in case you weren't paying attention) is about six feet long and the horns are pointed back and set above its eyes. As it gets older it "shape-shifts". The horns point forward and the frill over its head grows to about nine feet and ends up with holes in it.

What's interesting to point out is that both species (not anymore, of course) were discovered by the same Othneil Marsh, around the same vicinity in the late 1800's.

What led scientist to this rectifying discovery is that they couldn't seem to find any juvenile Torosaurus footprints, so evidently, their feet also "shape-shifted" as they got older.

To tell you the truth, if someone didn't tell me that one was a Triceratops and the other was a Torosaurus, I would've assumed that they were the same species. But hey, what do I know. I'm not the one with the little brush and pick-axe.

So does this mean that we say goodbye to the name Triceratops? That it will go the way of Pluto no longer referring to it as a planet? That someone's going to have to remake "Jurassic Park" and refer to the big mound of crap as Torosaurus dung?

Actually, no. The Torosaurus name will go away, because the Triceratops name is much more popular. And genus classification forbid, that we'd have to study what a Torosaurus actually is, or was, as the case seems to be.

So fear not dear friends. The Triceratops is dead. Long live the Triceratops!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Back in the U.S.S.R.! The S.R. stands for Spilled Resources

San Francisco, how I've missed you.

The rest of the country...

What the fuck did you guys do while I was gone?

I'll handle that in another post. I realized I blogged a total of once when I was in Australia. But the truth is, I was enjoying myself with the love of my life, and I could be assed to blog. Who would've thought real life gets in the way of the internet?

How was it? Amazing. Why? Cause of my beautiful fiancee.

Not a day went by where it didn't feel perfect in every way. For years, I've felt like half a person. With her, I finally feel whole. Normal.

The three months there went by so quickly, but was a necessary break from the monotony of my every day with my family. Not that I don't love them, but I needed to clear my head. And who better to do it with the woman I love?

Now that I'm back, and on the "Yay Life" bandwagon, I'm a focused mother fucker. And I can't tell you how good it feels to know what it is you want, and where you're going, and how you're going to get there.

But you know what's better? When you got someone to hold your hand along the way.

I miss you so much, BabyGirl. I'll see you real soon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Let me count the ways... On one hand.

She sits next to me. Typing away on her computer as she watches Lost on my request (she's hooked now).

She grabs my leg, telling me in no words at all, "Stop fidgeting your leg or I'll chop it off, drive into the Outback and force feed it down a dingo's throat!"

Then she flashes a look at me, the, "I'm not kidding." look.

And whether she notices it or not, there's a smile with that look. The "I love you, even if your fidgety leg makes me seasick" smile.

She asks me all the time, "Why do you love me?"

I give her the same answer every time. An answer she's never happy with.

It's not that it's not a good answer. It's just that it's an answer she doesn't understand.

So she asks for more reasons. And I offer them, a list as it were of all the things that I love about her.

And like Shakespeare, I can count the ways.

But unlike Shakespeare. I don't like to. Cause I have the perfect reason why I love this woman with every fibre of my being.

I love her cause of her. And all the little things that encompasses her. More things that I could ever say in a lifetime, but all things I could love in this one.

Don't tell her, though.

Cause she'll ask for another reason shortly after.

Friday, April 02, 2010

All Kangaroos Are Left Handed...

You know why they call this place "The Land Down Unda"?

Because there's a catchy song that uses the phrase in its title, and most people aren't very creative to think up a new name for this amazingly gorgeous place.

I'm opting to call it "The Place That Gets Totally Hosed When It Comes To Buying Anything That Requires A Memory Card Or That Doesn't Run On Vegemite."

Colin Hay is working on the song.

Canberra is in a valley, surrounded by mountains. As a coastal boy, it's a bit disorientating when I try to find my bearings. At least twice I had to remind myself that because I'm so far South, that doesn't mean the sun is looking down on me, judging me, calling me funny names.

I keep trying to remind myself that I have to take notice when I flush the toilet that the water goes the other way. But surprisingly, I don't care to watch. Go figure, I'm a big boy now.

No, rather than constantly taking note of all the comic stereotypes of Australia (and trust me, they do live up to each and everyone), this gorgeous slice of Outback has opened my eyes to a lovely country, with a beautiful topography, excellent food (sans anything Mexican), and laid back demeanor that gives Northern Cali a run for it's docile state.

All this and I have a beautiful woman at my side at all times.

I'd say I've died and I've gone to heaven.

But that can't be right, as I went in the wrong direction.

So I gotta go with Debbie Gibson on this one. Heaven is a place on Earth.

Hey Colin! I think I got a new song title, Debbie gonna sue us though.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Going Beyond Thunderdome.

Actually, that's not true, I'm going right to Thunderdome. Australia, that is. That's right, this California Warrior will, in less than 24 hours, be on his way to meet the Road Warrior (though I think he actually lives in California, now).

I'll be there for three months will my sweetie.

You can look forward to posts coming at you upside down and flowing counter clockwise.

And making as little sense as all the others I put up.

See you on the flip side.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

There and Back Again... A Physicist's Tale

Burkhard Heim was a physicist who died in 2001 at the ripe old age of 75. Many folks may not know the strange tale of this German scientist's strange climb to obscurity. But soon enough, he may be responsible for getting us to Mars. In 3 hours.

Heim, as a boy, had an ambition. As all children do. Mine was to be Optimus Prime. His was no less eccentric, he wanted to develop a method of space travel.

Heim's history sounds like something out of a comic book. But unlike Barry Allen's lab explosion giving him powers, Heim's accidental lab explosion left him without hands and mostly deaf and blind at the age of 19.

This did not stop Heim. Though he didn't go the super hero route, he did go the mad scientist route. He became an eccentric and a recluse. Going into almost complete isolation to work on his "theory of everything" (yes there is a 'theory of everything' look it up, it's crazy sauce).

But his "man behind the curtain" move did pan out. And today we have Heim's theory.

In a nutshell, it's a collection of ideas about the fundamental laws of physics. He developed a mathematical approach called "Selector calculus" which is based on quantizing spacetime itself.

In non-geek talk? Heim suggests that we could use a very strong magnetic field to push a spacecraft into another dimension. A dimension in where the physical laws that make the speed of light as fast as anything can go don't exist.

Sounds farfetched, right? And many scientists agree it does. But if it's real, it means we could travel to Mars in like 3 hours. To the nearest star in like 3 months.

The kicker?

It seems that the Department of Energy just so happens to have a device that could produce the uber-powerful fields needed to work. The device is called the Z-Machine.

If we are in fact successful in producing these fields, researchers could be testing a working engine within 5 years.

And a man, who you knew nothing about, who's life went unnoticed in a world of Einsteins, Hawkings, and Oppenheimers will finally come to light.

As the man who started our Star Trek.

Not bad for a mad scientist.

Friday, January 08, 2010

A bedtime story...

“Mountains VS Ocean ”


Americo Alvarenga

There was once a day. It could’ve happened a long time ago. It could’ve been yesterday. It could even be far into the future, but for argument’s sake, let’s just say it was today. There was nothing particularly different about this day than any other day. The Sun rose like it was supposed to. The Flowers bloomed like they’re used to. And Lilly woke up like she always does.

Lilly was a little girl who wasn’t as ordinary as her days were. Sure, Lilly rubbed her eyes to take the sleepiness away in the morning, like you and I do. And yes, Lilly puts on her sandals, one at a time, just like you and I would. But when Lilly steps outside and says, “Good morning”! The Trees, the Flowers, the Sun, the Clouds, all of nature, would answer back.

Lilly loved to talk to all the things around her, they would tell her jokes, they would sing her songs, and they would tell her stories about how things were going on in other parts of the world. As the day carried on, Lilly came to talk to Wind. Everyone gets ecstatic when the Wind comes by, because the wind knows more about what is happening around the world than anyone else. Sure you could talk to the Ocean, and ask it what is going on, but do you know how long it takes to carry a message by wave?

Lilly was very excited about what Wind had to say, it turns out that Shooting Stars were visiting the other side of the world. They were showing up because it was nighttime there, and would arrive to Lilly’s side of the world when it became nighttime for her. Lilly couldn’t contain herself about seeing Shooting Stars, they hardly ever come to visit, and when they do she is usually too tired to stay up to talk to them. She thanks Wind, who was busy making Trees sing, and Lilly starts to hatch a plan.

She walks over to where she can see Sun, and asks Sun for a favor.

“Sun?” She says, “I need you to go down early today.” Sun was surprised, for it was way to early for him to go away. “Sun,” she continued, “I must see the Shooting Stars tonight, and if you go to sleep now, I can be awake longer to see them. Sun felt a little sad, because it seemed that Lilly forgot that he was a Star too, only he wasn’t as flashy as Shooting Stars. Sun agreed, but only if Lilly let him stay up longer and shine brighter tomorrow to make up for it. She said yes.

Sun started to go down, and it started to grow dark. Lilly started to get happy but she soon realized she couldn’t see any stars. Clouds were still out.

“Clouds!” Lilly exclaimed. “I need you to go away.” Clouds felt quite sad being talked to in this way. Clouds feelings were easily hurt, but Lilly didn’t notice. Cloud quietly slipped away, and the night sky opened up.

Sparkling stars could be seen clearly now, and Lilly couldn’t wait till Shooting Stars came. But things still weren’t perfect for Lilly. Lilly was easily distracted by the Trees moving to and fro in the night; she asked Trees to leave. Lilly then asked Mountains to move back so she could see more into the horizon. Mountains did. Soon nothing was left around Lilly but her, her house, and the night sky.

And then with a zip, the first shooting star showed up. Lilly yelled, “Hello!” as more and more of them began to appear and light up the night sky. But Shooting Stars quickly became confused.

“Lilly?” Shooting Stars asked, “Where is everyone? Where are Trees? Where are Mountains? And where is our brother Sun?” Lilly explained that she asked everyone to go away so that she could see Shooting Stars tonight. Shootings Stars was very sad by this.

“Oh, Lilly.” Shootings Stars said, “We travel very far and very long, and we rarely come to visit. But when we do, we’re happy to come see you, Lilly, but not only you. You see, nowhere else in this great big Universe can we see Trees. We’ve seen Mountains sure, but not as pretty as they are here. And Clouds here are so fluffy and white, we love swimming through them when we visit here. And to tell you the truth, without all these things that make your world so special, I really don’t think we can stay.”

Lilly listened quietly to Shooting Stars words, and one by one, they all went away. Soon, the night was clear again, and as far as the eye could see, there was nothing around for her to talk to. Flowers were close, but they fell asleep as soon as Sun went away. Lilly was wide-awake, and did not know what to do. So she sat near Flowers, hoping that when Sun came back, she would have someone to talk to. Many hours went by, and Lilly finally fell asleep.

When the Sun came back, he came back strong. Sun had so much energy that he shone very bright and hot. Lilly asked if he could turn it down a bit, but the Sun reminded her about her promise yesterday. She agreed it was only fair, and went inside. Soon she heard crying from outside, and Flowers were calling for her. They asked Lilly for water, but she had none. She looked for Clouds who usually bring the water, but they were nowhere to be seen. Even Mountains who could form a stream or a creek was still gone. She even realized that Trees was still absent, as Trees usually kept her cool when Sun was having fun.

“Oh Flowers,” Lilly says, “I made such a mess of things. I was so selfish to see Shootings Stars last night that I asked my friends who always take care of me to go away. If I could just tell them that I’m sorry, if I could just tell them that I’ll never let them go away again, if I could just let them know that this time I’ll take care of them…” Lilly went quiet. She was too hot to continue, and sat next to Flowers to try to shade them from Sun.

All of a sudden, she saw Flowers’ petals move, and she felt a soft, cool breeze on her face. She looked up, and saw that Winds had been listening high above her, and following Winds down was Clouds. Lilly jumped up for joy as she called out Clouds. Clouds rumbled and brought down rain for Lilly and Flowers. Lilly was happy that Flowers was getting something to drink, and thanked Clouds so much. She was about to go inside her home, so as not to get wet when she realized that she was being shaded. When she looked up, she saw that Trees was covering her with its leaves. Winds explained to her that she heard everything she said and quickly told everyone what she had said.

Lilly thanked Winds for listening to her, and promised to never take her friends for granted ever again. Lilly sat contently under Trees and waved at Mountains as they came rolling back from the horizon. Mountains, of course, being slower than Ocean’s waves.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

On a side note...

Oh, by the by. It's a new year.

And just an FYI...


New one starts next year, folks.

Enjoy this one.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Free Spirit. The rover, not the immortal soul. Though free that too.

Today (January 3rd), Nasa's Mars rover, Spirit, will mark its six year, unfathomable stay on the surface of the red planet. Intended to only be operational for three months, Spirit, and its twin, Opportunity (who will celebrate its six year mark on the 24th), have gone well beyond their limits bringing back contrary views of Mars. While Opportunity has documented a wet and acidic Mars, Spirit, halfway around the world has had a completely different experience encountering a steamy and violent environment.

But all does not bode well for the little rover that "does, kinda". Nine months ago, Spirit's wheel broke through a crusty patch of surface and found itself stuck in some very loose sand. In 2006, Spirit's right wheel stopped working, which has met the rover, trying to get out of its sandtrap, with a mid-nities colloquialism, "Psych!" With four or possibly five wheels working (the sixth comes in at random), it has only made the poor little rover sink deeper into the sand.

If the little guy can't come out of the trap soon, NASA's focus is going to switch from mobility to preservation. Autumn is coming in the southern hemisphere, and with it brings less daylight. Spirit is tilted five degrees south where it sits. The winter sun at this time is coming up low in the northern sky. As we have all learned from watching Wall-E, this is unfavorable conditions for its solar panels, which might not collect enough solar energy, and could force Spirit to power down completely.

But why bother, you may ask, since the rover is stuck, its pretty much useless, no?

No! You ignorant, pea-brained, yet handsome readers of my blog who I will hope continue to do-so even after I brought into question the scale of your cerebrum.

In fact, Spirit can still perform its duties and more in its stuck position. It can study the deposit that its spinning wheel can kick up, it can study the interior of Mars by using radio transmissions to measure the wobble of the planet's axis of rotation, something it couldn't do while mobile (Take that! Opportunity and your functioning six wheels).

For now, we sit and wait. And applaud the valiant spirit of the rover with the same monicker. Six years of passing along to us new-found knowledge of another world along with the cool shots of a Martian landscape, and with the potential of giving us new material in its immobile state. You've gone far and beyond, little guy. Literally.

Happy six years on Mars!