Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Finding Ada: Fourth Planet On The Left

Today is Finding Ada day, a day to celebrate and recognise women in technology. And this year, my heroine in technology is Veronica McGregor.

Now you may not recognise this name, and I'd be very surprised if you did. Veronica is the head of the news office for JPL, and she is also the voice behind the Shorty Award Winner for Science, the Mars Phoenix Lander on Twitter.

Veronica is doubly my heroine, because she managed to bring a very important scientific mission into the light and she did it by giving a far distant exploration robot a first person voice. She told the story of humanity finding water on Mars.

I'll let that sink in for a moment. She was the voice of humanity as we touched the face of another planet. How freakin' cool is that.

I can't tell you how many of my friends tuned into the Mars Phoenix twitter feed, every day, waiting with bated breath to hear if the sun had come up yet on another planet. To see if the heaters had come on or if the robotic arm had thawed enough to scoop a bit of Martian soil into an oven for analysis. We clicked the links to see a glimpse of this distant world. We cheered aloud when the little robot found evidence of ice. The building block for life, on another planet. It was literally science fiction made fact.

I was enraptured by the story this little robot told me of her experiences.

And I literally cried when she went dark. As the Martian winter took over, and wind (we got pictures of wind on another planet) kicked up dust that covered the solar panels, every day MarsPhoenix would try valiantly to power up and do another little bit of exploring. Until the day came when she could no longer do so, and she sent her final tweet in binary code:
01010100 01110010 01101001 01110101 01101101 01110000 01101000 <3
Triumph. With a less than three heart at the end.

Veronica, I can't thank you enough for the gift of that little robot. You gave us science in a powerful and passionate form. You made our hearts soar with possibilities. You are a true heroine of technology.

MarsPhoenix epitaphs were chosen from over a thousand submissions, and one of the final three was this:
It is enough for me. But for you, I plead: go farther, still. ~Fernando Rojas
YES. Go farther, still. Read about Cassini and the Mars Rovers landers. Read about science that is expanding humanity's understanding of our solar system. Tell stories that sweep us off our feet and out into the vast reaches of space, like the true explorers of old.

Veronica, thank you for leading the way. We are eternally in your debt.

ETA: My friend Eilidh works at JPL and forwarded my post to Veronica McGregor. Her response is below:

Oh my gosh! Thank you so so much for sending this to me. I’m absolutely honored that your friend would think of me on this day. This blog post, on this day, means more to me than any Shorty Award :-)

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to find a hanky.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Zombie Story: 140 Characters At A Time

A Zombie Story: 140 Characters At A Time
Originally published on Twitter, 1/28/2009

ACT ONE: Babes In Manger

You know that place out on the edge of the High Desert, where the big cargo planes come in loud and low over the hard pan? Yeah, you know it.

It's the bitter edge of nowhere.Where they bring back the war dead from distant lands,coffins draped with flags we're never supposed to see.

We were sitting in the diner, mouthful of cold eggs and black coffee, when we heard the dull roar resolve into sputtering engines. Not good.

Gotta hand it to the pilot. Laid it down like a babe in a manger. Well, you all know how that story ended.

When the dust cleared, all we could see was a tangle of brush and barbed wire wrapped around a grey green fuselage. Engines dead. Silence.

Jace was the first one to open the door. I saw him cover his face and grimace. Then the stench hit me. Part slaughterhouse, part roadkill.

It was like watching a bad B movie. He disappeared into darkness and all I heard was the screaming. And the crunching of flesh and bone.

ACT TWO: Potter's Field

We fell back in horror just as the sun crested the ridge. Daybreak in Mojave is hard & cold. Backlit through dust & smoke, the dead emerged.

Grady muttered something about the 12 gauge in his pickup. Magda crossed herself. I dug out my cell and tried to focus enough to dial 911.

The field between the wreckage and the diner was pockmarked with gopher holes and rusted out hulks of old metal. Chevy, Kubota, Evinrude.

Grady had the right idea. The rest of us stood like dumb cattle waiting for the hammer. The blast from his shotgun woke us from our stupor.

The air rushed back in and sound with it. Someone was still screaming but the sound was muted by the grating chorus of their rotted throats.

We fell back, stumbling and crawling, thinking, like Custer must have, only of the safety of retreat. The diner. Phones. The myth of sanity.

My ears were ringing. Almost there when I heard Grady curse a blue streak. The shuck shuck of the shotgun was followed by a hollow click.

I could see them. Burnt flesh, shattered ends of ribs sticking out through their BDUs. Morning light glinting off their gore slicked skulls.

The doors wouldn't lock. It's a 24hr diner. The doors NEVER lock. Grady braced them with a chair. A hand broke the glass, tore out his throat.

ACT THREE: Battle of Grady's Griddle

Someone grabbed my shoulders, pulled me back behind the counter. Gus, the cook, said something about helicopters. They'd seen the smoke. Help.

Fading tempera painted reindeers on the diner's front windows only distorted the shadows of their forms as they battered against the glass.

"Three wisemen," Magda pointed. Three black Apache choppers coming in low and fast. She was feeding rounds down the throat of the 12 gauge.

Gus shrieked, pounding his shoulder into the back door. No lock there. Skeletal hands, flesh hanging like spanish moss, clawed at his face.

I watched transfixed as a finger fish-hooked him.I saw him scream.Eyeless sockets over a lipless grin, teeth crushing the back of his skull.

Dead weight was the only thing holding the door. I ripped the gas line away from the wall and sparked it. My flesh cooked slower than theirs

Magda was behind me, scattergun thundering in concert with the guttural roar of the flame."There's too many of them!" "I hear the choppers!"

3 wisemen followed their phosphorus white star down to our personal hell. Whatever it was hit the propane tank outside like God's own fist.

Can't tell you what hppnd next.We fell back to the freezer, praying the thick steel door held.I touched my ear and my hand came away bloody.

Light seeped in every gap in the rickety old freezer. Light so bright it burned my skin. The metal began to glow red. Magda kept praying.

Piadosa Virgen María de Guadalupe, dale clemencia, amor y compasión a aquellos que te quieren. Like the sweet fragrance of roses, pleasegod

Check the papers. They call it a training accident. The town of Mojave, population 2000, wiped off the map by an ill-fated dummy nuke.

Go out at dawn and watch the planes come in, low and slow over the hard pan. You watch the fighter escorts and ask yourself why.

END ACT THREE, A ZOMBIE STORY TOLD IN TWITTER SIZE BITES. Thank you and remember, keep your powder dry and always aim for the brain stem.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Going Grey

Those of you who know me in meat space know that I wear my hair pulled up and back pretty much all the time. And I am completely utilitarian when it comes to my hair.  Oy, just get it out of my face!  Anyway, this look can be severe, but I really don't have a lot of hair to begin with, and I have to work with what I have.

So to soften my face a bit, I discovered that I can dampen the wisps at my temples and get pin curls, no curling iron required.  Just wet, futz*, and go.  Now some days, it's a hit or miss thing.  Some days one side is more curly than the other.  Somedays it's not humid enough to get the effect at all.   Some days, like today, I get mad awesome pin curls. If I didn't do the pin curl thing, I'd have to coat my head in hair spray, because my hair has serious Mad Scientist tendencies.

Today?  My inner Einstein showed up.  I go to the loo and while I'm washing my hands, I glance at my reflection and think, "Wow, nice hair today.  Wait, what the..."

Sticking out of the side of my head at right angles is this grey wire, screaming "MAD SCIENTIST!"

"No no no.  Victorian librarian."  I futz with it.

"ALBERT EINSTEIN!"  Adamant hair is adamant.

"NO.  Rachel Weisz  in the Mummy!"  I dampen my fingertips and try to tame it.  Nothing doing.


"Okay, can I have the brilliance without the...."


"Fine. I didn't want to have to do this but if that's how it has to be?"  ~PLUCK~

I swear it screamed all the way to the end.  "INVISIBLE TESLA COIL!  PHIL SPECTER! BEN FRANKLIN'S KITE AND KEY!   NOOOOOooooooooooooooo!"

I would have flushed the damn thing but I don't want to be responsible for some urban legend about an albino python in the sewers.

*Futz, technical term, meaning to trifle or fool around.  Origin, Yiddish for Fart, I kid you not.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

[link] Louis vs. Rick

the saga of a man who taught his cat how to use instant messaging.

I ROFLMAO'd. Honestly and for true.


My copy of Fathom, Cherie Priest's latest release, shipped two days ago. I envy you folks who get to buy it in the store.

Read about it here: Let the waters beneath heaven be gathered in one place...
An ageless water witch schemes to bring old gods back to glory, but awakening the Leviathan is no small feat–and it’s none too compatible with the survival of humanity. Nevertheless, a handful of ambitious villains are open to recruitment and the ranks of darkness fill with surprising speed. Aided by an eighteenth-century Spanish pirate and his deranged young lover, the witch strives to bring about the end of the world.

But between the cracks hide forgotten old things. Ignored–but far from powerless–they claim a hero of their own. The soul they salvage was destined for a watery grave, but the timing is right and the lingering elementals have better ideas.

Now the End of Days is challenged by a strange and powerful new creature, distilled from stone by a servant of the earth who refuses to surrender his green fields and muddy plains. Not yet. Add to his arsenal a hapless insurance inspector and the irate priest of a fire god, and suddenly rural Florida doesn’t seem quite so sleepy anymore.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I just got done reading an article linked to me by trillsie yesterday. trillsie is a veteran of the USAF and yesterday, for that one day, I thanked her and all like her for their service. Truth is, I thank you everyday, because you and your predecessors have given me something I completely take for granted, something so precious, so deeply rooted in my being, it's like breathing. I can put pen to paper and speak my mind about politics and religion without fear of retribution. (There was a few months there, living under the Bush Administration, when I wasn't so sure, but we have HopeChange™ coming, and voters everywhere reminded me that we are Of The People, By The People, For The People.)

The article trillsie linked was was about Anthony Acevedo, a US Army medic who served in WWII, and who was among a small group of POWs who were taken to Buchenwald during the final days of the war. You can read it here. This story seems unequivocally knitted with today's headlines, as protesters of Prop 8 continue to spread their fight right to the steps of the churches that supported that heinous screed.
We hold these truths to be self-evident...
The government is not in the business of deciding who is desirable and who is undesirable. We do not separate citizens according to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, ability, sexual preference or political beliefs. We do not govern along lines of skull shape or skin color, hair color or eye color, For every new way in which our evolutionarily hard-wired brain can come up with to divide "Us" from "Them", we have a doctrine that wipes away that difference.
...that all l men are created equal...
The moment you give the government the right to sort us into buckets of "Acceptable" vs "Unacceptable", you begin handing out armbands. The moment you let one religion drive policy, and use its standards to decide our "morality", you begin laying the rail. The moment you let rage and pain and fear become your guiding influence, that's the day you start stoking the ovens.
...that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...
I am one hundred percent serious folks. I do not dispute your right to your religious beliefs. I would protect you just as vehemently if your rights were threatened. But you need to remember, the moment you start labelling people as "Undesirable", you step on a path. And there may be a day when that path arrives at your door.
...that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Life. Liberty. The Pursuit of Happiness. There is nothing about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered that makes a person sub-human. And if you do not believe these people should share the same rights and responsibilities that you have, the same rights and responsibilities that come with marriage and family, you are defining them as sub-human. If you do not fight for their right to stand beside you on the platform that is American Freedom, the platform that so many good men and women have died defending, you are defining them as sub-human.

And if you dare define them as sub-human, remember, you leave open the possibility that someone will define you or your children as sub-human, according to their own dictates.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Harvey Milk
Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan
Anthony Acevedo, may he live a long healthy life.

I invite you to add a name to the list of people we should never forget, for the struggle, for the sacrifice, for the lesson to our basic decent humanity they have given us.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Since I became aware of the senator from Illinois back in 2004, when he made headlines for his speech opening the Democratic National Convention, I have believed that he is the John F. Kennedy of my generation. There is a subtle poise, a grace and humility about the man that bespeaks the kind of character I have hungered to see in a national leader. I have also wondered if it's possible that America Herself would recognize that leader when he or she came along, having been force fed a diet of sound bites and petty schoolyard taunts and gibes.

I think I saw that leader in the debate last night. Obama treated his opponent with respect and gentility, even as his opponent refused to acknowledge him with even a glance. Even as his opponent spun lie after lie after lie about Obama's voting record and his position on the issues. He comported himself with dignity.

And here is an example, thanks to my dear friend Janice, of precisely why I want this man to take up the task of rebuilding America and restoring our good name in the global community:

Greenrose2 @ DailyKos wrote:
It came when Senator McCain was stumbling with Ahmadinejad's name. He was stumbling hard, almost unable to get the name or any semblance of it pronounced. Very quietly, but audibly Senator Obama can be heard saying something. In the first viewing, I knew he had said something there, but was unable to decipher exactly what he had said. In listening to the replay it's easy to hear his comment.

He quietly acknowledged to Senator McCain "That's a tough one." When I heard his remark, his gracious nod to the Senator's struggle to pronounce a very difficult name, his compassion for the man, I choked up. It humbled me. It made me briefly look inward, and feel lesser for originally maybe hoping that it was some cutting barb. And it showed him as a man greater than politics, greater for inspiring empathy and compassion for a fellow man.
When was the last time you had an intense, emotionally satisfying conversation with someone? When you felt as if someone was truly present and listening to your words, instead of merely waiting for you to stop talking so they can have their turn?

Can you imagine the power of making the leaders of Iran or from North Korea feel like they are truly being heard? Can you see now the true power of diplomacy and the absolutely vital necessity of meeting with these so-called "rogue" nations without pre-conditions? This isn't negotiating with terrorists. It's making the person across the table from you understand that you see them as a person. And that you have far more in common with them than the sum of all your differences.

Sen. Obama doesn't need to sneer at his opponent's missteps, as much as we might like to see him do what we might do. He understands that while Sen. McCain may not be qualified to be hold the Executive Office, he is a human being. He deserves to be treated with respect.

Imagine having a president who can not only lead, but who we can hold up to our children as a true role model.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

Say No To Truncation

Do you know if your rss feed is truncated or not? I read all of my blogs in a feed aggregator, specifically Google Reader. This allows me to browse all my blogs in one window. I read blogs from all over the world. Tech blogs, art blogs, culture blogs, you name it. It's also great way to catch up on some of you most prolific people (wordpress, typepad, journalscape, blogger, etc). But every day I find new and interesting blogs that I just, well, I have to confess -- I don't get the most out of your blog.

Why you ask? Because your feed is truncated. I get the first 255 characters or so and then a link to click to read more.

Now, if you're getting ad revenue by me clicking through, by all means, truncate away. But please -- be riveting those first 255 characters. Or else I'm on to the next new shiny.

Also, another reason not to truncate your posts, and I only just learned this, if you're using Wordpress.com? The only way for anyone in China to read your post is via an rss aggregator. If your posts are truncated, your international readers may never get to read what happened to you when the BBQ exploded. And you don't want to leave them in suspense, now, do you?

Here's how to set your feed settings in Blogger.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Elevating the discourse

I am not a political animal. Especially for the past few years, any level of emotional investment seemed to be a waste of time. I won't hesitate to say that critical thinking was a rare beast that made unicorns look as common as Central Park pigeons. It's deeply disheartening.

But this morning, I can't get Obama's speech out of my head.

Vanmojo put it quite succinctly. It's like it came out of an episode of West Wing, it's that good. We're going to be talking about this speech for the next fifty years, regardless of whether Obama wins or not, because he has raised the level of political discourse. He has refused to reduce incredibly complex issues down to a sound bite. He respects our ability to know the difference between a thousand shades of gray. He asks us to believe that we are capable of changing the way things are.

One of the things I have learned over the passed year is that if you believe in someone, they will rise to the occasion. If you tell someone that you believe in them, if you give them your heart and your soul and show them that you have faith in them, and if that someone respects you and cares about your opinion of them, that person will go on to do amazing things. They will dig deep within themselves and find the person you believe them to be. They will exceed their own expectations, and sometimes the belief itself. Because we all want to do good. I firmly believe that of most people. We want to make the world a better place. We want to be gracious and kind and respectful. We want to be gentle and caring when it's called for, and we want to be fierce and courageous when we are called to. We want to work hard and have something to show for it at the end of the day. And yes, we have our weak moments, when we indulge our petty selves, because we are only human. But for the most part, we want tomorrow to be better than today.

It'd be so very nice to have someone in the White House who not only wants that, but asks it of us as well. Someone who inspires us to be the better person. At first I was sceptical -- no, that's wrong. I was extremely cynical. But now I'm starting to feel it. I'm starting to feel like Obama is the Kennedy of our generation. It's a frightening feeling, to have hope again.

If you haven't seen or read his speech from Philadelphia yet, please take a moment to do so.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Surkatri Updated

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Saturday, December 01, 2007

For Siren 1991-2007

There is something to be said for digging a grave with your own two hands, on a crystal clear blustery day on a hill overlooking the mouth of the river and the cold blue Pacific in the distance.

There is something to be said for cutting your soft palms open with the wood of an ancient spade that has dug a hundred graves like this before and knows exactly what angle and what depth to cut the hard clay.

There is something to be said for a muddy wheelbarrow and a worn and faded blanket wrapped around a figure that should be sleeping but isn't, and seeing the sad eyes and stooped shoulders of the ones you love who help you dig the hole, knowing that the body that will fill it isn't the dog you loved, it's something else, something that needs taking care of with love and respect all the same.

There is something to be said for holding the entire span of a life in your head and in your heart, from the moment that shiny red penny of a pup came out of her mother with one ear on one side and two on the other, and the day she had to be taken to the vet to have that extra ear removed, which left the remaining ear droopy, so her head looked perpetually cocked in that, "What the hell are you talking about?" look, to the day she shredded the stack of important bills and strewed maraschino cherries on the white futon, to the moment she can't get comfortable and food tastes like ash in her mouth and she tells you it's time, and you know she's right.

There's something to be said for the heavy paving stones that have to be laid over the blanket and the earth to make the work of the coyotes harder and longer and maybe too much, but it's never enough and in six months or a year, you'll come back and have to collect the bones, because that's just the way it is.

There's something to be said for the steaming hot cup of coffee and the giggling of the baby and the warm company of family who have lived this day a hundred times and it never gets any easier, but it's right and good and the way of things.

(With apologies to Williams Carlos Williams)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Silk Hankies

Silk Hankies
Originally uploaded by cavalaxis.

The final product. Annatto Seeds on the left, Yellow Onion Skins on the right.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dyeing with Annatto Seeds & Onion Skins

Dyeing with Annatto Seeds & Onion Skins
Originally uploaded by cavalaxis.

How to make a mess with natural dyes.

Stitch Markers

Stitch Markers
Originally uploaded by cavalaxis.

Using the round end of a toggle clasp for knitting stitch markers and the straight end for crochet stitch markers.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Squirrels In Leather

Originally uploaded by cavalaxis.

Still have to set the pearl acorns, dye it, figure out how to put in expansion panels at the seam in the back, and line it.

Also, the center back needs a design as yet to be determined.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Faeries & Mushrooms

If you like faery art (Brian Froud, Labyrinth, etc) and amazingly magical handmade books, you must -- right this very instant -- stop what you're doing and go to kelfae.com.

And if you love what you see, and you can afford it, BUY SOMETHING. I can not begin to tell you how magical and wonderful her stuff really is. Seriously, you will be purchasing an amazing piece of art that will be in your collection for a life time. And you'll give an amazingly talented artist a very needed boost right now.

Shush, Kel. I'm pimping you and you'll just have to deal with it.

Oh and she does commissions!

kelfae.com. Make with the clicky already.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hello In There

I've got a headache, and it feels like it's going to be one of those headaches. The headaches that come with cheery monikers like, "Hell, Day One" and "Where's My Home Trepanning Kit When I Need It?"

Mom came out of surgery fine and her blood pressure is back up. She's still compensating, but she was in ICU last night and is still there today, not so much because she's in critical condition, but because they want to be able to get to her quickly if things do turn to shit.

Insert standard: "I feel like a horrible daughter for not sitting by her bedside but there's nothing I can do there that I can't do here."

I finished Fetching (fingerless gloves); they're now blocked and drying. I'm happy with the way they came out. I might make a pair or myself. Or I might make a pair of these, in my House Colours. (Go 'Claws!) Of course, that means finishing everything for everyone else first. Hmm.

I am determined to finish a pair of socks, though. The yarn is so wee, and the needles! It's like knitting with doll things. I love it. Socks!

Work is a real trial right now. I have a really low threshold for tolerating idiots. And it's even worse when the idiot is higher paid than you are, even though trained monkeys could do his job. (Oh, look! Yarn! Nice yarn! Maybe I could knit a hangman's noose! )

And the new fur kid is having real issues with itchies. She got a bath again last night, with special shampoo just to help her skin. She's scratching holes in herself, poor thing. But happy otherwise. It's nice to have a young cat around again.

And yeah... See, this is why I don't post more. Wow, the excitement. I think I need to go have a lie down...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And in other news...

Mom is going back into surgery this morning. (She had her second knee replacement surgery on Monday morning.) The wound wouldn't stop bleeding yesterday and apparently, last night too. They've given her four units of blood so far. So, back in to find out what the heck's going on. It doesn't seem life threatening but still, one thing after another. She had enough gumption to be bitchy on the phone yesterday, which was a good thing, my father assured me. Only my mother could be in a foul mood while on Morphine.

Y'all, ~points at my lovely readers~ have my permission to SHOOT ME IN THE HEAD if I ever get that bad, mkay? Seriously.

I'm not dressed up at work today, which feels strange. It's a whole ~handwaves~ contractor/not-FTE thing that I don't really care to get into. Plus there's actual work to get done, and that's hard to do when you have to stop every ten minutes and demonstrate how the wings work. (Something I'd normally get a huge kick out of.)

To top it off, I had to walk passed a bowl full of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups this morning on my way out the door. Damn that man for being oh so prepared. But I resisted. (Maybe there'll be some left over, y'think?)

Post pics of your costumes if you have them. Post pics of Halloweens long since passed to dust. I'd much rather be flitting about with you lot than counting mustard seeds and worrying about things I have no control over.