Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Sifting throught Astronomy Picture of the Day archive this evening. Absolutely spectacular barred spiral galaxy designated NGC 1365. This gem can be found in the constellation Fornax. The light we're seeing started on its journey nearly 60 million years ago. Just about the time the first flowers were starting to bloom, birds were making a bid for dominance in place of the dinosaurs and mammals were still little ground and tree dwellers. The trees were still giant tree ferns, no evergreens. No maples, birches, or great oaks to silhouette the skies. Ah, how the world has changed.

Scientists estimate the galaxy is about 200,000 light years across and is believed to have a super massive black hole in the center. The glowing blue clouds of gas in the arms are where new stars are born. Of course since giant blue white stars have very short lives measured in tens of millions of years rather than billions, the stars we see a borning now have probably lived their lives, gone nova and spawned a new generation.

Monday, March 26, 2007


A shot from the International Space Station taken in July of 2006. Absolutely beautiful shades of white and blue. And the totally fantastic shots of the clouds from above. As the atmosphere thins it fades to almost black. So many beautiful colors. this is from my favorite astronomy site. I don't get over there often enough.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007




I and Pangur Ban my cat,

'Tis a like task we are at:

Hunting mice is his delight,

Hunting words I sit all night.


Better far than praise of men

'Tis to sit with book and pen;

Pangur bears me no ill-will,

He too plies his simple skill.


'Tis a merry task to see

At our tasks how glad are we,

When at home we sit and find

Entertainment to our mind.


Oftentimes a mouse will stray

In the hero Pangur's way;

Oftentimes my keen thought set

Takes a meaning in its net.


'Gainst the wall he sets his eye

Full and fierce and sharp and sly;

'Gainst the wall of knowledge I

All my little wisdom try.


When a mouse darts from its den,

O how glad is Pangur then!

O what gladness do I prove

When I solve the doubts I love!


So in peace our task we ply,

Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;

In our arts we find our bliss,

I have mine and he has his.


Practice every day has made

Pangur perfect in his trade;

I get wisdom day and night

Turning darkness into light.


    -- Anon., (Irish, 8th century)


I first ran across this in Andrew Greeley’s May the Wind Be At Your Back. It’s a series of meditations on some Irish prayers and religious themed poems. This one is one of the latter ones. This little verse was found in the Monastery of Carinthia in the margins of a copy of Saint Paul’s epistles. The poem is sometimes also known as “The Scholar and His Cat.”


This Irish monk can no more not write than his cat can refuse to chase mice. A cat chases mice. To deny that is to deny the gifts of the Creator. Greeley writes as an Irish American. The joys and tribulations of being a writer and trying to remain not only in the Irish community but the religious community. (He’s a Jesuit, a sociologist, and a writer)


I think some of the long time members of the journal community are finding this is true. They may have to put the pen or keyboard aside for a little while simply because of pressures from family, illness, or work but they can’t stop for very long. Even if it’s a picture and the story that goes with it, they can no more give up writing than they can quit breathing, or Pangur Ban, whiskers twitching and tail held high, can let a mouse go by without pouncing.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


In there early seventies there was a remarkable  series on PBS called the Ascent of Man. Basically, it was a series of thirteen televised essays that covered subjects as diverse as human evolution, architecture and genetics. It was the brainchild of mathematician/biologist Jacob Bronowski. I loved it then, I love it now but one sequence stuck with me for years. It was a short sequence set in the remains of the death camp at Auschwitz. I added the captions to the screen grabs.



I discovered this week that I can capture shots from my DVD’s with the player on my laptop. These are shots from that sequence in one chapter of  the Ascent of Man. This is the text of the voiceover for the shots from the camp.




“There are two parts to the human dilemma. One is the belief that the end justifies the mean. That push-button philosophy, that deliberate deafness to suffering, has become the monster in the war machine. The other is the betrayal of the human spirit: the assertion of dogma that closes the mind, and turns a nation, a civilization, into a regiment of ghosts – obedient ghosts, or tortured ghosts.


Archive pictures from the camp.





'It is said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.


Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, ad is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ think it possible you may be mistaken’.


…….I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. ………..We have to touch people.”



This is the shot that stuck with me for so long. I can't even imagine what it would be like to stand in that place where so many of your family died and were discarded like so much garbage.


Bronowski was talking about one of the horrors of recent history. But the words could describe any of the recent horrors from the front pages and the headlines. To hear so many people speak or write so callously about discarding or attacking or killing or even putting people in camps is horrifying to me.




Thursday, March 1, 2007


I attached this as a comment to my last entry and decided to make it as an entry.

There's an old, old Bonanza episode. I forget if the man was a friend or a friend of a friend who needed someplace to get his bearings. He was an artist who'd lost his sight. He was outside by the lake with one of the Cartwrights. Ben, I think, but it's been years since I've seen this. And it's one of the few episodes that's stuck all these years.

The artist asks what's around them. The usual, trees, water, grass, sky. Then he starts asking for a more detailed description. Not just green, but what kind of green? Not just blue but what kind of blue. Are there clouds? Are they reflected in the water? He comes to understand that he may not be able to paint with a brush anymore, but he has a life time of memories of places he's been and seen and he can still paint them. With words.


Hey, it’s been awhile since I posted over here. Have to keep an eye on that.

I think we had just about everything except hurricanes tornadoes yesterday. And I can only really be sure about where I spent the day, namely Junction City. It rained. It hailed. It snowed. It sleeted. And in between the sun came out and it was bright enough to almost blind you.

I followed a huge black cloud home from work last night and it must have been pouring because the road was almost flooded. But, where I was the sun was shining, the clouds were big and poufy, and the grass is so green right now. I’m not sure there’s a green in the painter’s palette to match it. And even if you could match the color, there’s that shimmer from standing water that just is. It can’t be matched. I’m not sure if a photographer can catch it. You can only look at it long and hard and tuck it away in your memories. And maybe that’s how it’s meant to be.