Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Martian Invasion

As you may be aware, the Phoenix Lander arrived safely on Mars. NASA have the full CGI animation of the landing as astronomy picture of the day for 25 May.

What you may not be aware of is that the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught a picture of it on the way down. And you can see the parachute. Or as the Planetary Society Blog titled the photo OMG!! Parachute!!!! Photo!!!!!.

Why should you pay attention? Bill Higgins puts it like this in a thread on Making Light:

The nations of the world have a fleet of vehicles exploring Mars.

In orbit: ESA's Mars Express. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA's Mars Odyssey.

On the ground: Spirit, near the equator. Opportunity, also near the equator on the opposite side of Mars. Now Phoenix, above the arctic circle.

Those on the ground can communicate with the orbiters, and regularly use them to relay data to Earth. Imaging from the orbiters is used to plan and understand where the rovers are going.

It's real exploration. On a very big planet, but it's a start.

It's worth repeating: This may not be the 21st Century we expected or wanted, but it damn well is the 21st Century and it's ours.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sometimes It's Just Too Easy

I was looking for a friend's Good Food Magazine down the back of a sofa and had found it. "Hooray!" said my friend, "pass it over!"

"Sorry," says I, "It's not your Good Food Magazine, it's pornography under a food cover." I flipped it open, planning to use my powers of improvisation to make whatever's there sound rude.

Quiche, tartlets and... a strawberry tart. What can you do with material like that? That's already a double entendre.

But this isn't just a rambling personal anecdote, it's an introduction to The Always Amusing Euphemism Generator which, as you might expect creates random euphemisms. Let's see:

Halfway through the project, Frank looked like he had been

wrangling the buttery yak.

Well, I'm amused. Like all random text generators on the internet you can use this as an oracle. Here we go:

Q: Oh great and powerful Always Amusing Euphemism Generator, answer this question that lies closest to my heart and that the fate of thousands rests on - the girl that I really really like, yeah? Does she, you know, like me at all?

I couldn't believe my best friend was actually

savoring the sheets.

He is? The bastard!

Sub Titles may NOT be Objective Statements of Fact

I've just realised why people who have turned up on this blog looking for (for example) details on why there are two Bank Holidays in May, or the lyrics to a "Frenchman went to the lavatory" no longer seem to hang around and look through the archives when thy get here.

The description sub-title above used to read "This is not the blog you're looking for".

In an effort to be more user friendly I'll be returning to my previous habit of putting up whatever description best suits my mood, or that I've heard, adapted or made up that makes me think "that will be my blog's description! Now the world will bow down before Night of the Hats!"

Real blogging will recommence next week.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dream Diary 13

Started taking hay fever medicine yesterday and, as might have been expected, had a funny dream last night. It involved Heinleinian essence[1]. It was very strong. One drop turned a female freind of mine into red-headed super-genius.

I was going to use 2 gallons on a story.

But this isn't the strangest dream diary story I've read today; over here, while plugging his new novel, Walter John Williams had one and his dream revealed what UFOs are made of.

[1] Probably late Heinlein, but it's all a bit fuzzy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


"Will you be entertaining while we're away?" asked my Mum shortly before I house sat for her. "One does one's best," I replied. So here are the two absolute simplest recipes from last weeks dinner.

Garlic Butter (previously noted in passing)

1/2 pack of butter (125g)
1 clove garlic
a small handful of parsley, finely chopped (more finely chopped than I usually chop it anyway)

Get the butter out the fridge at least an hour before you need it. Put it in a bowl. Crush the garlic directly into the bowl and add the parsley. Now squeeze and mix the butter and everything else together and leave to sit for a few minutes.

Garlic butter is useful for getting garlic flavour into just about anything, but I like to get really big mushrooms, lie them on their lids and put the butter between the stalk and the rim. Then bake for 15-20 minutes. Super large garlic mushrooms! Try not to spill the butter when you get them out the oven.

Raspberry Frozen Yogurt

1 large pot of Greek-style Yogurt
1 tin of the cheapest tinned raspberries in syrup
1 dessert spoon sugar

This relies on having an ice cream maker, preferably my Mum's as I actually know how to use it. Cool the ice cream maker down. Add the ingredients to it, then set it to churn for at least half an hour, until it stops being a gooey mess and expands to twice it's original size. Eat it quickly before it melts.

This works best with the cheapest soggiest tinned fruit as it just melts away into the yogurt (except for the seeds). As it's in syrup, you don't need to add much extra sugar. It's win, win, win!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Bibliomancy - Oracular Fun For Everyone!

I'm sure we're all familiar with the idea of bibliomancy, using randomly selected passages from a book to answer questions. I've now discovered the internet has made that easier with Random Bible. Let's see how it works.

Q: Oh Magic Scriptural 8-ball - that girl I like, how does she feel about me?

A: "And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any kingdom." - 2 Chronicles 9:19

Q: Um, right. How about her cute friend?

A: "And there shall be eight boards, and their sockets of silver, sixteen sockets; two sockets under one board, and two sockets under another board." - Exodus 26:25

Q: Umph.

That's about what I thought (although I think I still have a chance with the friend).

The only way to top this is if there were a Sun Tzu randomiser for generals who lacked inspiration. What's that?

Q: So, Sun Tzu, we've invaded Ruritania but have got ourselves cut off from our supplies and are surrounded by enemy troops. So what I want to know is - that girl I like - what does she think of me?

A: The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will even roll stones along in its course.—Sun Tzu's Art of War, ss. 5.12: Energy (suntzusaid.com)

That is full of win, but frankly all of Sun Tzu is. Don't believe me? Get your own random Sun Tzu quote here!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Sci-Fi Channel: Giving Me Several Seconds of Entertainment of an Evening.

While flicking through the TV listings on Monday I noted that the Sci-Fi channel had the film Big, and later an episode of the show Medium.

Well, it amused me. If you have any suggestions for what else the channel most likely to make me groan with annoyance while being unable to tear myself away might have shown to continue this series, I believe comments are open.