Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Beatles Sex! I Mean LOVE!

That post title is an experiment, prompted by a quick look at this blog's stats, courtesy of Google (who also hosts Blogspot blogs, of course). They keep track of everything, as you might expect of Google. Although I'm not blogging as much as I think I'd like to (and once did), I'm still curious about who might be reading my posts, which posts are most popular, how people got here, etc.

Thanks to Google, I know that the top 10 search keywords that brought readers to my blog are beatles love, the beatles love, beatles, music of the spheres, asteroid flyby, the beatles, airbus a380, flyingsinger blog, water cycle, and solar system. Water cycle? Anyway, it's striking that on my nominally space-themed blog, four of the top ten searches are for the Beatles! Hence my post title - if "beatles love" is big, how about "beatles sex?" My most popular post is one that I wrote about the Beatles LOVE show and CD on December 31, 2010. Number two is "Space Models," about my summer 2010 visit to the French space museum in Toulouse. I also know that to date, my blog has received 124,798 page views. (This is not exactly my "all time" page views, but only since Google started tracking my stats around June 2009 - I actually started this blog in October 2005.) I probably should have run some ads. But I know you hate that as much as I do.

Of course 124,798 is probably how many pageviews Lady Gaga gets per minute. But by mentioning Lady Gaga, the Beatles, and sex in this one post, I am positioning myself to give her a run for her money. Don't worry, though. I will not be mentioning Justin Bieber, Amy Adams, fixed mortgages, Ron Paul, or any other trendy terms just to try to drive traffic to my blog. Or sex.

Safe Travels (Don't Die): Go Curiosity!

Lisa Hannigan's wonderful album "Passenger" includes a funny little song called "Safe Travels (Don't Die)." It sounds like it was inspired by a friend who says this to her when she travels, but here I am applying it to NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover which was launched yesterday. I caught the launch live on CNN, and it was a beautiful sight. So far the spacecraft seems to be in good health, and I do wish Curiosity safe travels on its long 251 day cruise to Mars.

MSL Rocket Platform in JPL Clean Room
I was fortunate enough to see Curiosity in the flesh (so to speak) during assembly in the clean room at the JPL Open House I attended in May 2009. The picture above shows the "sky crane" rocket platform that will gently lower the rover to the surface in August 2012. More pix on Flickr.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why Do I Love This Book?

There are a few books that I seem to be able to read many times and feel engaged and rewarded each time. One of these is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a novel by Mark Haddon. It's a curious book, a detective story of sorts, written from the point of view of Christopher, a 15 year old English boy who has a form of autism or perhaps asperger syndrome. He is extremely high-functioning in the areas of math, logic, science, and use of language. But his ability to understand and relate to people and emotions is quite limited. He generally prefers animals, because their reactions and emotions seem easier to understand than those of people, and they can't lie to you. Christopher is very logical about some things and seemingly very superstitious about others. Some of his behavior is rather bizarre and not very nice - yet for all this he's an extremely engaging and sympathetic character, and you get to see the world very clearly through his eyes. It's really a fascinating book that works on many levels, and I highly recommend it. I won't spoil it by revealing plot details - you can find plenty of reviews and summaries on Google or Amazon if you care to.

But why do I like it so much? I think it's because I relate more strongly to this character than I do to most fictional characters. I even feel a little bit like him in some ways (and not only because he wants to be an astronaut, even though he realizes that this is extremely unlikely for many reasons). I think it's something about the way he detaches himself from emotions and complicated human situations (or tries to). I see myself doing this sometimes. And also something about the way people don't understand him (but who hasn't felt that way sometimes?). I also like the way he makes and values certain observations that most people wouldn't make or value (a bit of the scientific or engineering mind there). I don't know. But I really like Christopher Boone and the chance to view of the world through his fictional but very real-seeming eyes.