Category Archives: International Space Station

Hot Air

Real-time Abortion

If you haven’t had the chance to see that video of the woman undergoing an abortion, here it is:

The woman is named Emily Letts. The video of the surgical procedure went viral after it had won a “Stigma Busting” competition sponsored by the Abortion Care Network.

She explains her decision to record the procedure in Cosmopolitan magazine online. Just a few things I learned, reading her essay:

  • Emily was an actress at one time
  • There is such a thing as an abortion doula
  • She seems intelligent and independent, yet she engaged in sex without birth control, leading to her pregnancy
  • She was called a Nazi by one anti-abortionist

Here’s one thing I’d known about her already: she is not a criminal. Abortion is legal and condoned by medical authorities in the locale where her procedure took place.

21st Century Meh?

Make sure to check out that live video stream from cameras mounted outside the International Space Station.

You’ll see how we humans are next to nothing in relation to this planet.

One troubling thing: The streaming site has a social sidebar for viewers to chat with each other. People from all over the globe are oohing and aahing over the moving image. And you may read the term moving on several levels. It seems, based on my unscientific, casual observation, that one of the least represented countries is this holy land.

ISS HD Video Experiment

A Snippet Of The Image From The ISS

Imagine that. We Americans have paid good cash — that otherwise could have gone toward erecting a sky-high statue of Miley Cyrus — for the ISS and now it’s showing us pix our spinning home in all its jaw-dropping glory. You’d think we’d be glued to our LCDs watching this world slowly pass beneath the live cams. But no. We’ll leave that to the saps from Brazil, who seem to be giddy over the whole thing.

Ah, it’s understandable: We Americans are too busy ignoring that mass kidnapping story out of Nigeria.

Welcome To Our World

Dig this pic I found on the world’s greatest gossip site, dlisted:

From dlisted

Friends and loyal Pencillistas, if I were to select one single image to show the first visitors to Earth from another planet that would convey to them he true meaning of the United States of America, it would be this one.

The Electron Pencil:


“Astronomers. like burglars and jazz musicians, operate best at night.” — Miles Kington


If you’re a space geek and an early riser here in Bloomington (a scant club, I admit), you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see the International Space Station over the next couple of weeks.

With the late sunrises at this time of year the sky remains dark even after some of us unlucky souls are planted at our desks, casting dirty looks at our fellow miserable coworkers. But if you’re alert and can spare the energy to look upward you can see the mighty ISS shooting overhead between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30am.

Here’s NASA’s schedule of sightings from Bloomington:

The ISS is home to a half dozen astronauts: three Russkies, three brave and handsome Americans, and one Japanese. Sorta neat how Russian and American spaceguys (and gals on occasion) are now cooperating for long months aboard an orbiting laboratory, isn’t it?

The International Space Station At Sunrise

This is especially so considering that the true aim of each country’s space program back in the 1950s and very early ’60s was the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Eventually, thousands of ICBMs were pointed at cities in the two nations for the purpose of incinerating them with thermonuclear weapons.

It’s a wonder any of us who grew up in those psycho, edgy years are even acquainted with sanity now.

For that matter, who among our parents and grandparents alive during the Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima years would have dreamed Japanese and Americans would be among the tightest of geo-political pals in the 21st Century?

Believe it or don’t, there is a bit of good in this mad, mad world.


My pals R.E. Paris and Dave Torneo and I are three of the featured writers in the Ryder magazine annual Top Ten issue.

R.E. breaks all the rules and selects some three dozen books that fascinated her and, in her learned view, are representative of trends in the publishing universe. Her choices range from the “Steve Jobs” bio by Walter Isaacson to Stephen King’s “11/22/63,” an alternative history that supposes John F. Kennedy had survived his wounds on the eponymous date, and to the Islamic fairytale graphic novel, “Habibi.”

Dave, one of the most serious readers I know, writes about his ten best books of the year. He actually read the 800-page “Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1941-1956.” Man, Beckett probably kept the Royal Mail in the black all by himself. Torneo also dug Teju Cole’s “Open City” and Ross Gay’s “Bringing the Shovel Down.”


Me? I pointed my smart-assed knives at the city and state’s elective office holders, pricking the top ten political stories of the year. (And, yes, the pun is intentional, on three levels). By happy coincidence, one of my top stories is Bloomington’s rewriting of its gun laws to coincide with Indiana’s. I note that it is now legal to pack heat in the Monroe County Public Library.

Comforting, isn’t it?

Guns N’ Books

Anyway, pick up the Ryder this month or you’ll be woefully ignorant for the rest of the year.


A no-spamily, no brattle zone.

◗ Special educator extraordinaire Erin Wager-Miller directs our attention to movie hunk George Clooney’s take on the difference between the two parties in this holy land. The Dems, Clooney feels, can’t sell themselves as well as the Republicans.

Here’s a closeup of the quote:


Eric Burdon & The Animals‘ 1968 song was not about the elation of soaring through almost unimaginable altitudes (which I’d thought when I first heard it as a 12-year-old). It was an anti-war polemic about a military chaplain in Vietnam who blesses a unit of soldiers preparing to go out into the jungle for an overnight raid.

Now, nearly half a century later, we still pay military chaplains to sprinkle holy water on men and women to go out to kill and be killed. And, just as in Vietnam, this nation’s bosses still can’t give us valid reasons why in the hell they’re doing it.

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