Monday, August 20, 2012

Dinosaurs from Outer Space!

Ankylosaur from Museum of Ancient Life, Utah
Or something like that.  Last week, the Washington Post reported the finding of a dinosaur footprint on the land of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.  The track is believed to belong to an armored dinosaur called a nodosaur, a relative of the more famous Ankylosaurus.  The footprint is about fourteen inches long and hails from around 112 million years ago (Early Cretaceous).  That's roughly the same time as the Glen Rose dinosaur tracks, just north of Waco (they're the ones I based the footprints in CHRONAL ENGINE on).

Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA's first space center, was established in 1959.  They employ around 10,000 engineers and scientists and other personnel, and are responsible for a variety of earth and outer space explorer satellites, going back to the 1950s with the Project Vanguard.

All the equipment, and look they found in their own back yard. :-).

Friday, August 17, 2012

CHRONAL ENGINE interview and Giveaway


Here are some pics of what Cyn and I have been up to the past couple weeks:

Xiphactinus and me at the Texas Memorial Museum

The Shoal Creek plesiosaur


The Theater Barn at Round Top

Burton Train Depot

Monday, August 13, 2012


MARATHON, by Boaz Yakin, ill. by Joe Infurnari (First Second/Macmillan 2012)(ages 12+).  In 490 BC, Athens defeated the armies of Darius of Persia at Marathon.  An epochal moment in Western Civilization, its aftermath begat multiple legends of a remarkable runner, Pheidippides or Eccles, depending on whose version you read.  In some stories, as the Persians were about to land, he raced from Athens to Sparta -- about 140 miles -- in the hopes that the Spartans would lend their martial vigor to the defense of Greece.  In others, he ran from the plains of Marathon to Athens -- a mere 24 or so miles -- to bring news of victory. 

In this remarkable graphic novel -- a poignant and compelling historical fantasy -- Yakin and Infurnari square the circle, telling the story of both runs, the tale of the son of a slave, his athletic prowess, and his love for family and country.   

Thursday, August 09, 2012


A PASSION FOR VICTORY: THE STORY OF THE OLYMPICS IN ANCIENT AND EARLY MODERN TIMES, by Benson Bobrick (Knopf/Random House 2012)(ages 10+). In this year of the XXXth Games of the Modern Era, Benson Bobrick looks back on the history of the Olympics from its origins in ancient Greece to its reawakening in 1896.

Bobrick's accounts of both the ancient and early modern games (up to 1948) is fascinating, filled with anecdotes about athletes the politic of the day.  A must-read for anyone interested in how today's Olympics came to be. (And, personally, I wish they would bring back chariot racing.).

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


I, Mercury, am of course, the cat.  Nevertheless, I will grant you that Violet, the protagonist in this fine picture book, is some cat.  In much the same way that Wilbur, the porcine mammal from E.B. White's CHARLOTTE'S WEB, was some pig.

SOME CAT!, by Mary Casanova, ill. by Ard Hoyt (FSG/Macmillan 2012)(ages 2+).  Violet was a queen and was meant to rule.  But she had been imprisoned in a facility far beneath her station.  Naturally, when gawkers happened by, she would arch her back and hiss.  Usually, said gawkers would take away a kitten (likewise imprisoned) and go away.  One day, a man and a woman came by and instantly recognized Violet's royal virtues.  So they took her home with them.  Their home, alas, was occupied by two large canines!  What was a queen to do?

SOME CAT! is a lovely tail tale of overcoming adversity friendship and family, even if it means, on occasion, purring with the hounds.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Curiosity [Updated!]

[Update II] SUCCESS! Cyn and I watched on NASA TV last night.  Gratifyingly, the cable news channels also had fairly extensive coverage.
Curiosity landed at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 5, PDT, (1:32 a.m. EDT Aug. 6) near the foot of a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Gale Crater. During a nearly two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.
More here.

[Update]  Check out this great post on How to Watch the Mars Curiosity Rover.

There's much awesomeness afoot on Mars this weekend.  Tonight, in fact.

Or, early Monday morning (for those of us in the central and eastern time zones), to be exact.  NASA's Mars Curiosity rover is scheduled to set down.  If you haven't heard of Curiosity, here's the deal: it's a rover about the size of a MINI Cooper that's scheduled to set down via a "sky crane."  Take a look at the JPL/NASA web site here.

Here's the NASA video on how Curiosity is going to make its descent, titled "Seven Minutes of Terror":

Thursday, August 02, 2012


THE PLANT HUNTERS: TRUE STORIES OF THEIR DARING ADVENTURES TO THE FAR CORNERS OF THE EARTH, by Anita Silvey (FSG/Macmillan 2012)(ages 8+).  For centuries, daring adventurers have searched the remotest corners of the earth, daring wild animals, disease, and physical hardship, all in a quest to bring back new specimens of plants for medicinal, scientific, economic, and aesthetic purposes. 

THE PLANT HUNTERS provides richly-drawn and detailed accounts of some of these little known explorers.  In addition to touching on contemporary aspects of botany, THE PLANT HUNTERS offers a fascinating and eminently readable account of an aspect of the history of science most people don't think much about.
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