Tag Archives: space

Charting Cyberspace

Here are a few selections from my week in web stumbles and ‘net exploration.

In light of the recent Mattel/Fisher Price recalls of toys produced with lead-based paint, two different blogging moms have taken the initiative to put together lists of toy companies with higher safety standards. Check out the lead-free toys lists at My Two Boys and Mamanista. If you don’t know about the risks of lead paint, particularly to very young children, you can read about them here.

Moms in our playgroup compared notes on Time-outs and other forms of toddler discipline on Saturday, and then I found out that Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution, has recently released The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums, and Tears.
Her web site also has a fair amount of good, free advice.

It took surprisingly little time for me to create myself as a character on The Simpsons. (Pictured above.) Dan made one for himself, too. (Right.)

Oddee has a genuinely funny list of 15 unfortunately placed ads.

The space shuttle may be the big news of the week, but there’s always so much going on in the world of space news, like the potential discovery of a new “invisible” form of dark matter.

In a couple of weeks, folks in the Western U.S. may get a rare look at the Aurigid Meteor shower.

There is also a cool feature with pictures of the top 10 views of earth.

The first ever Blog Action Day will be devoted to environmental issues this October.

The imaginative people at Craftster challenged their community to come up with recycled uses for plastic shopping bags.

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Dark & Elegant Matters

(Note: this video is longer, and of a higher quality, so it may take some time to load.)

We found this huge book on the Cosmos at Borders a few weeks ago. High atop a display of discount outer space books, Declan asked me to get the “Bero Galaxy book.” For those of you who, like me (before I had a space-obsessed child), would have no idea what that might mean – it’s a book with a picture of the Sombrero Galaxy on its cover. Filled with huge images taken by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, as well as various other spacecrafts, he was excited to see things he loves, like the Galilean moons of Jupiter, in such detail.

And he stunned me a bit by identifying not only the things I knew he knew, but by saying things like “oh, these are the train wrecks,” when I turned to the page that showed distant galaxies colliding with one another. He can also identify many planets and moons in our solar system by their surfaces – the volcanoes on Mars, the pock-marks of Mercury – and the long arms and glowing cores of several different galaxies. His father and I are confounded by this on pretty much a daily basis, and grateful to be learning that we are even tinier specks in the universe than we ever thought possible.

“That is a really good space book,” he told me confidently after we spent 10 minutes on the floor of the bookstore, flipping through and talking about the pictures.

His favorite thing to watch lately has been the Nova special The Elegant Universe, about string theory. I have watched this with him at least two or three times now and much flies over my head. Declan likes me to watch it with him and explains some of the basics to me: “It’s everything, mommy. It’s everything.”

A few days ago, a young pregnant woman flirted with Declan in the grocery line. He peered around the shopping cart at her, sweet and shy. She waved at him and said “Hi there! How old are you?”

This is a question people ask him all the time, but he doesn’t seem all that interested in answering or even knowing the answer.

I leaned over to him and said, “can you tell her how old you are? Do you know you are two? Can you say ‘I’m two?'”

He looked right at her and said “It’s an elegant universe.”

She looked at me curiously and I interpreted. “He said ‘it’s an elegant universe.'”

She looked pleased and surprised as she touched her belly.

“He has a lot of answers about the big things,” I offered. “Details like his age – not so much.”

“Who needs to know they’re two when they know that?” she said, then she leaned down and looked right at him. “I hope you keep thinking about the big things and the elegant universe for a long, long time. I hope you don’t forget them when you get older.”

Life soundtrack: The Elegants, Little Star: Best of The Elegants, “Little Star”
The Elegants - Little Star:  The Best Of The Elegants - Little Star (LP Version)

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“You’re Already Home”

For some reason, this emerged as Declan’s chosen mantra on the final night that Little Brother’s was open. He pointed at several different people, leaned into me and said, “he’s already home, mommy,” nodding, often putting his hand on my cheek and adding, “we’re already home, mommy.”

On Sunday afternoon, my mom and I were part of the wrecking (or, more accurately, preservation) crew at Little Brother’s. She managed to pry out a painting that covered the fireplace – a phoenix with the word Stache’s that painter Dan Work made there years ago. With some help from friends who came by, we also managed to bring down the Elvis, Billie Holliday and Karen Carpenter paintings that used to be the bathroom walls at Stache’s. Not to mention the bird painted on diamond-shaped plywood from the wall next to the sound board that used to cover one of the front windows at the old place. I took enough pictures of the dressing room, which was filled with fairly historic fliers from both clubs, to hopefully reconstruct the room in a photographic collage.

One of Dan’s doormen climbed a ladder and took down the Little Brother’s sign. We loaded it, and some odds and ends, including a life preserver that said “Save our Stache’s (and Little Brother’s)” into the trunk of my car.

Then I went to a friend’s house to pick up Declan.

“Oh mommy!” he said when I walked in the door. “You’re home! You’re really, really home!”

Dan spent a long night and extra day clearing out the place and cleaning. By Tuesday morning, the last few straggling tools were gathered, and the locks on the building were changed.

Meanwhile, Declan’s continued his monologues about the galaxies as well as random declarations, including “all aboard the choo choo train” and the old standby “just the right SPEED, just the right ANGLE” (which he chanted alone while practicing somersaults on the upstairs futon the other afternoon). Last night, the three of us sat around the dinner table at 6:30, which seemed awfully strangely normal.

In these first couple of days in this new life, the mantra keeps coming, usually while we’re sitting together, reading a book or watching TV: “Mommy, daddy, are you home?”

It’s been exactly what I’ve needed to hear.

Life soundtrack: Chris Smither, Leave the Lights On, “Leave the Light On”
Chris Smither - Leave the Lights On - Leave the Light On

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The search for E.T.

I had no idea that Columbus was home to an influential scientist in the search for intelligent life. (The comments tied to this story are a scream.) Too bad that this man is leaving, he might have found an acolyte in Declan.

I’ve run SETI at Home on my computers for years. You should too!

Life soundtrack: David Bowie, Hunky Dory, “Life on Mars”
David Bowie - Hunky Dory - Life On Mars?

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Chasing the moon

Dan spent yesterday afternoon at the club, the front door propped open so that people could come in and buy t-shirts or old posters he had on sale. It was kind of a depressing day, with people mostly coming in to gawk, take pictures, or, to his amazement, say “you mean you’re really closing?”

He came home deflated that he hasn’t saved more memorabilia over the years, and that business has been so lousy in this final month. This all happened so quickly, it was impossible to create any real finale for the place. People might have stayed away for fear of getting trapped in the crowds, so there weren’t many crowds. Or they never believed it was really going to happen, thanks to the dubious reporting of The Other Paper, where the only real coverage was the speculation that Dan was bluffing or that the landlord was going to have a change of heart. (Never, I repeat never, trust TOP‘s “facts.”)

Fortunately, I read Space.com almost every day. So yesterday, I found out that last night’s full moon would appear to be the biggest of 2007. Venus and Saturn are also hanging out together in the western sky.

So, here on the realio, trulio (props to Ogden Nash) last weekend of Little Brother’s, we loaded our son in the car at sunset on Saturday night and drove to the country. The sky was electric pink and an old, unmarked mix tape of mine that I unearthed in the club’s basement played Neil Young’s “Long May You Run.” Venus was bright, with the faint Saturn nearby, and fireworks were going off all over the countryside west of town. When the moon peeked over the horizon, it did indeed appear to be huge, streaked with hazy red and orange stripes.

“Is it Jupiter, daddy?” Declan asked.

This is the planet that Dec is both the most fascinated with and the most afraid of. After watching a few specials about it, I must admit that I’m a little scared of Jupiter too.

Life soundtrack: Neil Young with Stephen Stills, Decade, “Long May You Run”
Neil Young with Stephen Stills - Decade - Long May You Run

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Moon drops and perfect days

It was a recipe for chaos: the Little Brother’s 10-year anniversary and Declan’s 2-year birthday fell on the same weekend. The class that Dan is taking at OSU had a field trip planned for the entire day of said birthday and then, of course, the club’s anniversary took on a whole new significance when its closing was announced. It felt like Dec’s birthday was going to get sucked up by everything else in our lives.

Instead, the appearance of old friends and reunited bands at the club really put Dan at greater ease than he’s been at weeks. The whole weekend felt like a vacation. Dec and I spent most of his birthday on our own, taking phone calls from singing relatives, opening the cards and gifts that people had sent to him and enjoying each other’s company. I let him lead the day, happily fulfilling requests like “let’s hug and snuggle” and “read it again, mommy.”

When a packet of glow in the dark planets arrived in a package from my dad, I dutifully put them up in order on Dec’s bedroom wall. Because he’s watched a Science Channel special about the formation of our solar system on the DVR several times, he was able to name every planet after I went through them with him once or twice. Uranus tripped him up a few times, but he’s now an expert who runs into the room yelling “panets!” several times a day, then points at each one expectantly: “Murkee, mommy? Wenus, mommy? Earf, mommy?” And yes, the set does include the recently demoted “Fluto.”

Most of the adults in his life don’t remember learning the planets until well into elementary school, so again, he is blowing our minds.

His Giga (my mom) got him an amazing blue and silver indoor/outdoor spaceship tent and a Moon in My Room. The latter slipped from his hands as my mom and I were putting a play kitchen from Target together that involved approximately 6,231 screws.

“Baby dropped the moon,” he told us.

Everyone tells me that two is a magical age. And it is. We had a little cake with a number two candle when Dan got home. Declan was every bit as excited to pretend to make his daddy dinner in his play kitchen as he was to sit inside his tent and pretend to be launching into space.

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Andy Wormhole

One of the great joys of the DVR is the fact that I can catch up on all of the old episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that I missed when I had a social life. (I managed to pull off watching all of The Next Generation episodes I hadn’t seen before during those first few months of napping and nursing.)

As a result Declan has two requests that he makes daily: “space show watch?” and “wormhole watch?” These are usually code for “lie down and snuggle with me after I jump up and down while looking at images of space.”

But it’s more than a TV/snuggling fixation. His vocabulary expands daily: rocketship, Earth, meteor, planet. Space toys, outside of Twilight Turtle aren’t very easy to find at his developmental level. I stapled cosmic felt onto a board for the playroom last week, threw velcro backing on some glow in the dark stars and made a few planets and spaceships for him to stick on there. I think he would prefer that the whole room was covered in felt so he could stick these things wherever he wished, but at least it’s getting a little use.

When I went to a craft store to get some things for this project the other day, I also spotted a small reproduction of Andy Warhol’s painting, “Space ship” on sale for $2.50. I snagged it and handed it to Declan as soon as I walked in the door. “Space ship!” his father trumpeted.

“Oooooh! Space ship,” Declan repeated.

“It’s Andy Warhol,” I told them.

“Andy Wormhole!” said Declan, wandering into the living room, holding it in his hands. “Space ship wormhole!”

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