Tuesday, 13 November 2018


Yeah, I think I'd be okay with this,
as long as I get to choose the tree.
Imma gonna get my Goth self out of the closet (where I tend to keep her most of the time) and we're gonna  have a pleasant little chat about burial caskets.

See, death doesn't scare me. (I hope you also come to a place where it doesn't scare you either.) Because of this, I have been able to openly speak to my multitudinous offspring regarding my wishes for my funeral, et cetera.

I have only two solid wishes:

  1. Play my music at my funeral. 
  2. Do not feel you must spend much money on my funeral in order to show grief. Bury me in an old cardboard box if you want. I'm okay with that. I'd much rather you spend the money on yourself to make your lives happier. Keep things on the cheap because I'll be dead and won't care.
My daughters, with their own wry senses of humour, wholeheartedly embraced this idea. I've never been one much for adhering to others idea of "tradition". Therefore, if something slightly different comes along, I'm game to consider it.

Now, actual cardboard coffins are more expensive than the bog-standard pine box, it turns out. Seeing that price is the main factor, whatever coffin is the cheapest is good enough for me.

Then last week on Mr Money Mustache, I came across Nature's Casket.  What a cool idea!

Pine beetle infestations can be ruinous to the lumber industry. The beetles infest the wood, introduce a fungus that weakens the wood, and kill the tree. The resultant wood can't be used because its structural soundness is compromised. You can't use beetle-kill wood to build anything you wish to last more than a couple of years.

So, what can you build that only needs to last as long as the funeral and interment?  A casket of course! A casket only has to last a few days until it's buried, then it's welcome to return to nature. What an excellent use of this otherwise-useless wood?

Pine borers are a present pest in WA, so if I could get my hands on some pine borer wood, that'll do fine for building a casket here. 

Another option the daughters considered was a burial pod.  The Italian company Capsula Mundi offers burial pods, with a tree planted over the pod. They liked this idea, and I might be okay if they bent rule #2 for this option.

"What kind of tree do you want, Mum?" they asked me.

A fruit tree, definitely.  Apricot would be best, as it has a taproot, but if that is discouraged, I want a cherry tree.  Otherwise, any fruit or nut tree will do.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Dear 2020 Convention Committees: Timing sucks.

(...and don't think you're off the hook yet, High School Reunion Committee...)

A handful of years ago I wanted to go to my 25th high school reunion in Salt Lake City. As I live on the opposite side of the planet, to do such a thing would take a few years of saving and planning.  So save I did, and I worked on the planning.

Part of the planning was figuring out when the reunion would be. The year was easy enough to nail down, but the other details were more difficult in coming forth. At this time, not enough people were socially connected enough to make tracking down info easy.

I finally got a hold of the reunion committee, only to learn that there wasn't going to be a 25th HS reunion.

What? Who on earth thought that was a good idea?

Obviously, enough of the local muggles who thought that a reunion every ten years was sufficient, as they saw each other enough during the rest of the year not to bother. They all voted on it, not realising that the next reunion was supposed to be a significant one, and I'd been planning to attend for years.

REALLY?  You know I live in Australia, right? And I'm not the only overseas alumnus. (Obviously, the local yokels don't plan ahead like I do. Yes, I lay plans years in advance. What? It's a perfectly sensible thing to do.)

Feeling a bit put out at the provincial-ness of my fellow high school students, I used the money instead to go to WorldCon, which happened to be held in Australia that year.  A good time was had by all, and I did get to meet a whole lotta my peers that I previously only knew online.  Sooo wanted to attend another WorldCon, or its sisters.

Alas, life got in the way and I had to live it.

Nevertheless, I've been planning for the past ten years to attend my next high school reunion. Have already started saving.  Have started negotiating times. (I prefer early July, so I can bring my daughters during their winter school break, but they committee's considering early August. Again, the provincial thinking. They think everyone will be too busy on 4th July. Really? One... day.... and you can't plan a reunion within a two-week period?)  Have started everything I need to do, and hope I get things that aren't too far out of my way.

Then I received the news that WorldCon will be in New Zealand. In August.

At first, I thought that if the Reunion Committee didn't plan the reunion the same weekend as the con, I might be able to swing by EnZed on the way home. It's doable, and far out enough I might be able to budget for it... presuming the Reunion Committee can get something locked in before the airfares go up. (By the way, that's a six month window. I doubt they know that.)

Then, I learn that Romance Writers of Australia are holding their convention that year... in Perth.  

In August.


Okay, If the Reunion Committee can manage to get the reunion settled in July (or early-early August), maybe I can then swing by New Zealand for WorldCon on the way home, then arrive in Perth just in time for RWA.  Party hard, and network like nuts.

*deep breath*  Today I learned that World Fantasy Convention will be held in Salt Lake City.  In November.  I've always wanted to go to a WorldFant, because that's my jam. 

If I didn't have everything else going on that year, I would have booked my tickets to Salt Lake and totally have gone. As it is, I don't know if I can. That really sucks. 

So yeah. All you convention committees, who have gone out of your way to arrange your convention schedules to fit my life...  Actually, you're not too bad. I appreciate all the hard work you've done to help further my career and allow me to attend conventions at a minimal cost to me. If it had been 2019 or 2021, I would have been all over that like baby oil on a bodice-ripper.

But as for those organising my 30th high school reunion?  You've got one chance to get things right. Kindly lift your eyes beyond your own scrub oak-strewn back yard, start thinking about life outside the Valley and consider that there are those of us who really, REALLY want to come to the reunion, who are sacrificing much (oh, sooo much!!) to reconnect with you.

I would really like if the reunion was sometime during the first half of July. Otherwise, late October/Early November looks good too.

August... really not a good time for me. Especially if you plan some tepid little picnic at some park and nothing else.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Creepy or cool: planetary nebulae that look like eyes

Here are several pictures of planetary nebulae.  Many of them look like eyes staring back at you. Is this creepy or cool?  Feel free to comment below.

A planetary nebula (plural: nebulae) has nothing to do with planets. Astronomers are strange when it comes to naming things. Oftentimes, an object or phenomena gets named because of what it looks like (or what astronomers think it is), only to be waaay off base. Planetary nebulae got their name because they looked like hazy planets in gentleman scientists' early homemade telescopes. Fr'ex, the Saturn Nebula, which looks like the planet Saturn.

Really, planetary nebulae are the ionised gas clouds that got expelled at the death of a low-mass star. Towards the end of its life, a star puffs up in its red giant phase, only later to blow away all that matter, leaving the slowly cooling corpse known as a white dwarf. That matter expands through the interstellar medium, glowing brightly from the energy radiated from the white dwarf.  Planetary nebulae don't last long, often only a mere five to fifty thousand years or so.

The Hourglass Nebula is looking at you. (credit: ipod.nasa.gov)

The Helix Nebula is also looking at you.
This one is also known as the Eye of God.
(credit: Hubble Space Telescope)

The Cat's Eye Nebula is staring at you.
Did you use a can opener? (credit: The Stars and Planets)
Nebula ESO-456-67  is giving you the Evil Eye.
(credit: Sci Tech Daily)
This hazel eye stares right back at you, don't it?
(Credit: Hubble Space Telelscope)

This eye has a cataract. (credit: European Southern Observatory)

All hail the Hypnotoad! (credit: Observatorio de Sierra Nevada)