Monthly Archives: August 2015

Writing prompt: race your mouse day

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Race your mouse day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

“Ladies and gentlemen and the rest of us, the mice are being shown on the track now. Place your bets before the bottom of the hour! Look there at Thumbelina, a whole foot taller than last year! They must have discovered another variation for the Am-te-1 gene. And Fivel Goes Sonic is following. Yes, there have been some creative designs this year!” The announcer droned, though few listened.

The stands were full and the elite had their plumage set to “ridiculous.” Holographic dresses made women appear to have 12 inch waists. There were hats 5 feet tall, but didn’t obstruct the views of those seated behind. A man cooed at his pocket-sized St. Bernard. The fabrics were inlaid with microthreads to calculate ever-changing fractals. The men displayed their bare chests, elegantly carved by nanobots into perfectly sculpted forests of bonsais. It was the day of the mouse race. The finest lab specimens from centuries past had been carefully genetically modified. Some were great hulking beasts 12 feet tall. Others where lanky and narrow, but highly optimized in musculature. The mice had to contain at least 99% of the genetics of a Sprague-Dawley lab rat from the year 2000, but some of these beasts would have been difficult for humans from that time to recognize. Some of the humans might have been hard to recognize, but they weren’t modified in any genetic sense. That would be obscene.


Book now with the Exoplanet Travel Bureau

(You may have a wait while the technology for your flight is developed.)

A lot of my first reading as a child was astronomy books and magazines. When I was little, my brother told me there was a black hole under his bed (to keep me from snooping—nerd children fight dirty), and after that, I had to know more about the enigmatic and alarming properties of the universe.

One of the things I remember was the hunt for the first exoplanet, that is, the first confirmed planet outside of the solar system. Scientists were quite sure they should exist (why wouldn’t they?), but the equipment and techniques thus far hadn’t shown them. I remember reading about some of the first exoplanets in the hazy early 90s. They were massive, close to their stars, and had outrageous properties that inspired wild imaginings.

Now confirmed exoplanets number in the thousands. And poking around the internet on an unrelated chore the other night, I found this gem: the Exoplanet Travel Bureau. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (the extremely prestigious and awesome JPL) made travel posters for four exoplanets in the style of retro travel posters. Each of them features characteristics of their planet. I promptly printed out three and hung them in my guest room. I’m still ecstatic about them; these are the kinds of visions and dreams I had so long ago as a kid, and that I love to chase in my own art. These are awesome, and I love them, and you can download them at full size. Tell all your friends, and print your own! Here they are!

Click on the image for more image sizes. Images by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Click on the image for more image sizes. Images by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Click on the image for more image sizes. Images by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Click on the image for more image sizes. Images by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Old stuff out west: The Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe


From Wikimedia Commons.

When we think of old buildings in the United States, we think of the east: Boston, Philadelphia, Jamestown. Instead, we should think of the Southwest. Taos and Acoma Pueblos are pre-Columbian and still occupied today. And the New Mexico Governor’s Palace in Santa Fe was built in 1610 and housed local leaders until 1909.  By contrast, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello was built in 1772. The Palace of the Governors has a century and a half on it. New Mexico is the fourth youngest state, gaining statehood in 1912. I’ve always thought of the southwest as a new area, barring poorly recorded native activity, a region discovered in the era of Cowboys and Ranches and the Indian wars of the 1800s. Visiting the Palace of the Governors reminded me what a rich history our southwest has.

The Spanish came to New Mexico in 1598. They established the capitol in Santa Fe in 1609, building the Governor’s Palace in 1610. New Mexico was a part of Spain until 1821. It was then part of Mexico until 1848, when it became a part of the United States following the Mexican-American War. So New Mexico was a part of Spain for half a century longer than it’s been a part of the US.

Much of this tumultuous history revolves around the Governor’s Palace. In 1680, the Pueblo Indians’ revolted against Spanish Rule and took the Palace for 12 years. Governor Lew Wallace wrote Ben Hur as the sitting governor of New Mexico Territory in the Palace. This video tells the tale of Bernardo López de Mendizábal, territorial governor from 1659-1660, and his wife, Teresa de Aguilera y Roche. After criticizing the Spanish government, the Inquisition arrested them on suspicion of being crypto-Jews (this term is another wild piece of history all by itself). He died quickly in custody in Mexico City, Teresa wrote about her life in New Mexico.

Today, the palace is a history museum. You can see the various ways the palace has been modified over the years. You can look at the exhaustive list of governors that ruled from the palace. It’s impossible not to feel the immensity of the history in that list. New Mexico was the frontier for a long time, not just in the United States. And living in New Mexico today one feels that spirit.

Photography prompt: Photographing light

A couple of months ago, I did some photography prompts. Recently, I reviewed these photos and was pleasantly surprised how much I still liked them. I took photos I wouldn’t normally take, and saw new things.

Now that I’m in a new place, paradoxically I am short on photo inspiration. Everything is so interesting that it can be hard to zero in, especially when work, grocery stores, bars, and walking paths are new forms of shiny distractions. So today I’m posting one of my prior photography prompts, and I hope to continue with more in the future.

Today’s prompt is “photographing light”. This is not the same as photographing shadows cast by light, it is photographing the light itself. I got this prompt from the photographic composition course by Ben Long. I took these pictures on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville in the early evening, not quite at golden hour, but late enough in the day that the windows were casting reflections in interesting places.


In this picture, I liked the way the reflections from different buildings interacted, and how they contrasted with the brick pattern.


In this photo, the windows from across the street are reflecting light onto shadowed windows. The reflections allow you to see shapes in the windows that you couldn’t see by looking at them directly, plus the contrast simply pleases me.


A distant window cast light onto this crosswalk aid. I almost ignored it, as one does with crosswalks one does not need, but with this small and brilliant beam of light, the guide suddenly was radiant. I loved the simple colors in this one, turning it b+w would have stripped it of so much.