Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pretty Pictures

My baby sister sent me the link to NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. The pictures are beautiful, some great Hubble shots. So far I have downloaded 3 and made them my wallpaper. My wife commented on how pretty the shot of M101, the Sombrero Galaxy, was -- this has always been a favorite of mine. When I was a kid, "The Outer Limits" used to show pictures of galaxies behind their credits, I'm sure M101 was one of them.

Looking at M101, you see the beautiful diffuse halo of stars. It's so amazing to see this mist and realize every spec is a star. I was thinking, those would be nice places to live, placid (no supernovas or spiral waves passing through), with a beautiful view of the galactic disk. Then I realized, these are all Population II stars -- formed from the initial primordial hydrogen and helium. So, no metals, no life as we know it. Life-bearing planets are most likely confined to Population I stars in spiral arms. These stars and their planetary disks include the material from supernovae, which is everything heavier than around nitrogen. "We are made of stars" -- the iron in our blood is only formed in supernovae. So, no life if it's too peaceful -- it seems only fitting.

Finished the 4th library book, Nancy Kress "Crucible". This was the sequel to "Crossfire", which I think I somewhat panned. This one, I just wanted it to be over.

Before that, read the 3rd of Walter Jon William's "Dread Empire's Fall" series, "Conventions of War". Hopefully this trilogy is done. Readable, but, why?

I have now been 4 times to play at the Monday Night Blues Jam Session at -- the American Legion. It's really fun -- ""Blueberry Hill" in G -- got it; "Knock on Wood" in D -- got it. The last 2 times, I got to play most of the lead guitar. I have improved greatly, still a long way to go. Still, it really resonates to do this. I remember that I was a professional musician -- I keep it sparse and simple, I will do more as my chops come back. There has normally been 6-10 musicians (drums, bass, keyboard, 3-4 guitarists), and maybe 10 people there. This past Monday, there were a couple dozen specators, and there was a good harp player who I've seen around Lexington before; a great black keyboardist / lead singer; and an outlaw guitarist / Johnny Cash type who was wild. Nobody knew any of the chords to the 2 songs he did (but we figured them out). My wife went and we danced to one when I was sitting out. She enjoyed it OK but it's a smoking place (woo-haa), and her eyes were burning. Still, I got to play the better part of an hour and a half.

Another milestone Monday: there was a guitarist there whom I was better than! Up to that, the other guitarists had seriously more chops than me. Dave Brown Sr (dad of my son's business partner), who got me to come, is an excellent player, and there's a guy Lindsay Olive who is unbelievable -- totally fluid. He has mostly played bass the last 2 weeks.

So, it's been really fun. The songs we play I don't know well, I come home and practice the chords. I'm playing 3-5 times a week, both my hands are getting a lot stronger.

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