astronomy

When in London …

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I have had a posting gap since I’ve been busy this week–with only days to go till I move, I made a to-do list of all the things I wanted to do while I was still in London. Things have been ticked off, crossed off, added, compromised and shuffled around, and I also read a blog post about how to write a successful blog, the main point being needing to do something for your readers.

So I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list, similar to my own list, of things to do in London, in the hope someone will find it useful.

9271a1. See a West End show

This one is a no-brainer, really. Riding an Underground escalator often gives you an idea of the variety available. The official discount ticket booth is situated in Leicester Square and usually sells for a range of popular shows.

Tip: Do your research before you visit London, and see a show that’s not being performed anywhere else.

2. The Royal Museums, Greenwichmz3

My museum of choice would be the observatory, which has interesting and stunning exhibitions and shows all year round. Though as an amateur astronomy I may be slightly prejudiced on this! The Astronomy Photographer of the Year is always worth checking out, some really beautiful images, and the shows put on are clearly communicated to be intelligible to those of us who aren’t experts (yet). I’m looking forward to seeing the Visions of the Universe exhibition starting soon.

CL1to5-13. The Sherlock Holmes Museum

I’m not actually sure I will get to this one; at the moment it’s being held in reserve if something gets cancelled. Since I haven’t been before I’m afraid I can’t comment on it. I can however point you towards the website. If I get to go, I promise I will add a constructive comment.

4. The Chocolate Room, HarrowPicture1

I would have been going here for two years if it had been around that long. The Choc Room is an Australian company who’ve just in the last few months opened their first UK branch in Harrow. They have something like 23 different flavours of hot chocolate, plus coffee, smoothies, milkshakes, waffles, individual chocolates, cakes, etc. I was a bit wary of the 23 flavours initially, expecting the syrups that get put in coffee, but the flavours are much subtler and more delicate. The prices are not low, but worth a try.

Tip: ordering the hot chocolate trio gets you three different flavours in shot glasses, so you can see which ones you like before ordering a ‘cuddle cup’ or ‘warming mug’.

5. The British Museumdownload

I went for the third time yesterday, revisiting my favourite rooms: the ancient civilisations, Egypt, Greece and Rome, and the development of clocks and watches. There are many other rooms but it’s tricky to get to everything; it’s a good idea to prioritise your visit. Also, it’s worth peeking in the bookshop/gift shops first: when I first visited, I discovered a book “Around the British Museum with the Bible”, but only on my way out. I don’t think it’s the only example either. On a related note, there’s a small (free) exhibition currently running till October called Coins and the Bible, which is easy to miss as it’s one small room–worth checking out. It’s on Level 3.

Tip: The Egyptian rooms are very popular and can get pretty crowded–try and plan your route round so you’re there during quieter hours of the day, i.e. when it’s not packed with school trips.

jellyfish-sfSpan-v26. Try a new flavour

London is packed with restaurants from all different cultures, if you’re just visiting, take the opportunity to try something new. Since moving to London I’ve tasted for the first time Japanese (my new favourite!), Lebanese and Persian cuisine, as well as rarer dishes such as jellyfish and wild boar. (Though I still refuse to try sashimi–raw fish.)

To the left is my Pin of the week!

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Short, Sweet and Starry

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Pin of the week:

I’m still chewing over some names, for my Conturbus and Not Alone series. I’ve named a place in Crossfire, The Locked Market, but still trying to come up with something original to refer to the magical characters. Like the opposite of a Muggle. Still no inspiration for the Milky Way–going to have to look at some more photos to help with that. Not that I need an excuse to look at space photographs.

Alienated Talking Bricks (in Bubbles …?)

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Had a good week. A very good week! My Genre coursework is AT LAST completed and submitted, now I can take a nice long break from unicorns and superheroes. Unfortunately I still have work to do–meh–but the big one’s done. Done! Hooray! I was beginning to think I’d never finish it.

And I’ve finished the second song to submit for Lyrics. Well, I think I have. I’m going to wait a while and have another look at the second verse, see if it does need another tweak, but I think it’s finished or at least virtually finished, which means I’m up to my quota on lyrics to submit for marking–just the critique to go, which while trickier than I anticipated is still looking to be much easier than the Genre critique was.

I also finished another song–not one I’m submitting, as it’s based on Shadow Charge and harder to appreciate without knowledge of the story. I had planned for it to be my second song for coursework, but wasn’t sure when it was finished and showed it to a third party with no knowledge of my novel, who agreed it didn’t really stand alone. But in the context of the story, I’m happy with it, so it wasn’t a waste.

Extract from ‘Leave Me Alone’:

Leave me alone! Let me go!
I can’t take the past’s torment
If bricks couldn’t talk I would be all right
But they can and they whisper through the night
Haunted by what I never wanted
I was only trying to make things right

Posting more would spoil the novel plot, so that’s all you get!

A while ago, one afternoon over coffee dregs, I drafted a couple of Trock songs, something I’d wanted to do for ages but didn’t actually plan on trying before I’d finished all my coursework. But my brain had given up on everything else and I thought, why not? Probably because my brain had given up on everything else, only one chorus is actually more than note form. I quite like it though I wish I had more than that. Still, one day …

On the subject of geeky writing, I surprised myself by making progress on two fan fictions in the last couple of afternoons that hadn’t changed a jot in months. Both Doctor Who, well, that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Still neither are at a point in which I’d feel comfortable making them public, alas, but still, progress is progress.

I know what you’re thinking, but fan fiction falls into the same category as fan songs, or anything fan-based really: only when my brain has exhausted everything else. Which is sadly why most afternoons you will find me watching the telly, too knackered to finish all the one-chapter wonders I started posting online prematurely over the last seven years (wow, has it been that long?). Which is why I’m being a lot more careful with the newer ideas, i.e. the Doctor Who ones.

I’ll stop talking geek now, not that I’m apologising for being one (never!), but just not to alienate (pun not intended) too much anyone just stumbled on this blog. I promise I don’t only write about geeky things.

I also write about … stars! I like stars. I’m still learning the constellations, I’m quite a newbie to astronomy, but loving it. And I write about other things too, can’t think of specifics off the top of my head but I do.

I’m coming close to leaving home. As in, for good as opposed to during term time. It’s a scary thought. Not in one go, I’m moving into a flat in a town near my parents, so the idea is over time I’ll gradually clear out my old bedroom so one of my brothers can have it. Might take a while, living in two places basically means having two of everything–or it does for me anyway. I’ve been lacking the energy for a real clear-out for years, but being closer to home is looking to be the time to do it.

I’m going to miss London, but I’ll still be going to Neo Writers and astronomy meets (not all of them every month). In the probably naive hope that one day I’ll be able to afford to move back there on a permanent basis. (Don’t burst my bubble, people.) And my friends had better visit or else …

Closet Superhero

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I promised, so here it is: my Aquila book cover.

Aquila_Cover_withtitleMuch more clearly a mock-up than the previous post, but you get the idea. The leotard probably took me the longest; there were no images on the internet that fit the description I’d already written in the story, so I had to improvise by overlaying a feather clipart image over a plain gold one and cutting out all the white.

Other points of interest: The ‘keep out’ sticker, made from scratch in Photoshop, and my favourite (of course), the star stickers on her wardrobe door, arranged in the constellation that gave Aquila her name.

With regard to my superhero, I’m not certain what I’m going to do with her. Her short story could be expanded into any number of longer works. Watch this space.

Very Bad, Then Very Good

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Well, it’s been an interesting day. Delays on both the Tube and National Rail mean I never made it to the charity event I was supposed to be helping to run. I left Waterloo feeling pretty stressed, but after an hour’s nap and a couple of hours listening to a CD of piano hymms, I feel nice and soothed. Plus the PJs and plum tea help.

Also, strangely, after the awful morning I had I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it, but I decided to take a quick look at my ekphrastic poem notes before settling down to watch Hustle all afternoon, just in case there was any spark left in my brain that could do something. My brain surprised me enormously by not only being able to cope with putting the notes into a first draft, but came up with, and started writing, two song ideas as well! Now that is one heck of an achievement for me. Maybe my brain is improving, or maybe it’s a fluke, but at least I’m nearly settled for my tutorial next week now. Thank goodness. Now all I need to do is schedule my glasses appointment and pack for the NSPKU conference, which crept up on me!

I’m not going to think about the rest of my coursework. That’s Saturday’s problem.

300px-Rosette_nebula_LanoueOh look, it’s February 14th. I did know that, I just kind of forgot in the hassle of the day. My take on Valentine’s Day? Like Christmas, a good thing that’s been smothered by consumerism. Not saying I don’t mind roses and hearts–I am a romantic at heart–but would rather receive something more personal for Valentine’s Day than the same as what everyone else gets. I read a very good Doctor Who fanfiction a few months ago where the Doctor takes Rose to see the Rosette Nebula for Valentine’s Day. That’s a tough standard to beat. But I’m sure someone who knows me very well will be able to come up with something.

As a point of interest, that fic was what started me Google imaging nebulas, which gave life to my then-vague interest in astronomy. I fell in love with the beauty of the universe.

Going Nuts Over Verse

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The opening of my poem “Nutshell”, after having had the N+7 treatment:

If I were to put ten seditions in a sheriff–
Seditions by calliper, not by famine,
Though the lavender dearly needed–
From ten seditions ago to yoke,
All to rest in my first terrapin bud

The title also changed to “Nymph”. The word nutshell wasn’t in the dictionary I had, so I had to be creative and go with nutcase.

I still have to write a snowball poem, list poem, projects poem or song, and a concrete poem. And ekphrastic, whatever that is. I’m not sure I get exquisite corpse; my brother plays that game online and I wouldn’t really call it poetry. Too many references to Spongebob Squarepants.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of this poetry movement. Sure it can sound quite cool, but it’s too random for my liking. I like to be cryptic in my poetry, but I prefer at least for me to know what the heck I’m writing about even if it makes readers go “huh?”.

Have started with the projects poem, which is pretty tricky. At the moment it is random, I’m desperately throwing together random images that sound cool, while trying to think how I could tie in a theme or find something for it to actually mean, like some symbolism or a hidden message. Wouldn’t be too complex if it weren’t for having to get in all the 17 stages.

Still, at least that’s all I’m going to try today. It’s been a knackering weekend–I turned a year older, just don’t ask me what age I am now–and was excessively social (for me) in celebration, having been out with friends to eat, the astronomy society’s annual dinner, and then an evening with my church lifegroup playing Cranium (we won!).  Won’t be doing a weekend like that again in a hurry! Will be keeping next week free apart from work experience and class.

Lots of fun, but I’m still recuperating, and writing from my nice comfy bed. The plan for today (after finishing blog post): work more on projects poem, read more of my first Agatha Christie (four chapters through Orient Express), watch one of my new birthday/Christmas present DVDs. All from my bed. Well, I’ll have to get up to put the DVD in, and to get food, but …

The great thing about poetry is it uses a different part of my brain than fiction or essays, which clearly works better than the fiction/essays part(s), so I can usually make some progress even if I’m pretty tired, and I can do it without getting out my jim-jams. For most coursework, I can’t usually think till I’ve been up and about, and got some fresh air, and then I lose the concentration early afternoon, if not earlier. It’s very frustrating, and makes for very slow progress.

Hmm. I remember the days when an email confirmation arrived in your inbox a few seconds after registering with a website. Why does it take so long nowadays? I discovered 750 words through Twitter. Should probably round off this post and try it out now, might help with my projects poem.

Invisible Jigsaw Pieces

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Maybe it’s just me, but Wales seems to be a popular spot for astronomy trips. First I stumble on AstroCamp on Twitter (and discovered the Baker St Irregular Astronomers, whose star party I went to last month, ran it), now my slightly-closer-to-home astronomy society are planning a trip there. My problem here is that I have to minimise my excursions to save on energy, money and time, not necessarily in that order. Well, AstroCamp looks set to happen yearly, so my sights turn to the other event–which happens to clash nicely with Mobilise, which I attended last year with the other church students. I haven’t heard anything about it this year, so don’t even know if I’m available or not.

Isn’t life complicated.

My society is looking to head abroad in the autumn, possibly Tenerife–!–to coincide with the comet Ison so moneywise it would make sense to save for that, but at the moment they’re all strangers and then if I can’t afford the abroad trip I’ll wish I’d been to the Wales one.

Then there’s the other option, find somewhere closer to home. Don’t know how viable that one is.

Oh, decisions, decisions! They’re hard enough when you have all the facts, impossible when parts of the puzzle are missing.

Plan of action needed. Google astronomy trips and camps till my fingers drop off. Email to society to ask for average going-abroad prices in past excursions. Hound friends about Mobilise, whether yay or nay. Ask if only stargazing friend interested in going. Then dose brain with healthy amount of caffeine and set it to the four-letter W-word.

Brain: What’s the W word?
Me: Work
Brain: Work? I don’t know that word. Define it.
Me: Work. Verb, to work. What your default function is until the fog rolls in.
Brain: *looks blank*
Me: I rest my case.