No meteors

Star Trails, Aug. 12, 2018

I went out to try to get some mete­ors dur­ing the 2018 Per­seid show­er, and I don’t think I cap­tured a sin­gle one. (I saw two, but they were where my cam­era wasn’t point­ed.)

But at least I got some nice star trails, on a dark and moon­less night, despite the smoke in the air.

Eventually, there might be a Swanwick/Link interview

Wood type

…and it’s sort of my fault.

It start­ed with a request for book sug­ges­tions: Nik­ki was look­ing for books that “cap­tured [my] soul”.

I made a sug­ges­tion, nam­ing a cou­ple of my favourite short-sto­ry authors. (FYI, Kel­ly Link goes by @haszombiesinit on The Twit­ters.)

Michael Swan­wick, as is his wont, replied.

I offered up my 2-year-old review of Get in Trou­ble.

Mr. Swan­wick agreed with me.

Kel­ly Link chimed in.

And then it all kind of snow­balled.

So I’ve got that to look for­ward to. I hope it comes to pass; I think it’d be a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view.

Writing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday

Chadwick Ginther reads from his new novel

Tues­day and Wednes­day were a lot like Mon­day, except I didn’t set my alarm for 2:30 AM either day.


I got up, wrote, read, wrote some more, then head­ed to Win­nipeg, to see my friend Chad­wick Ginther launch his new nov­el, Grave­yard Mind, at McNal­ly Robin­son.

Chad­wick read­ing from Grave­yard Mind.

On my way, I hap­pened upon a love­ly field of sun­flow­ers, so I stopped for a few pho­tos. None of them turned out, because I neglect­ed to turn on the aut­o­fo­cus on my lens. But that’s OK, because I went back today (Fri­day) to scout the spot for a pos­si­ble round of star trails lat­er tonight, and I got this pho­to:

One sun­flower, look­ing back

And then, after vis­it­ing with some friends in Win­nipeg (thanks for the iced tea, Mike & Michelle!), I stopped in at the aban­doned house near Erick­son, and got about a half-hour’s worth of star trails.

Star trails above the aban­doned house

It was about 2:30 AM when I got back to the cab­in (hmm, I seem to have an affin­i­ty for that time…), so I start­ed the star-trail GIMP plu­g­in whose even­tu­al out­put you see above,  then went to bed.

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.

Writing Retreat 2018: Monday

Bison at Minnedosa

Mon­day morn­ing I got my 1,250 words done quick­ly, then reward­ed myself with a cou­ple more episodes of Car­nivàle. (Aside: I don’t know what’s up with the à in Car­nivàle, any more than I know what’s up with my friend that insist­ed on pro­nounc­ing it Car­ni­valé.)

In the after­noon I head­ed into town on a cou­ple mis­sions: I want­ed to get some sup­plies for the cab­in (milk for my morn­ing cof­fee, for instance, and peanut but­ter for my toast), and I want­ed to upload Sunday’s pho­tos, if pos­si­ble. I took my lap­top to the cof­fee shop for the sec­ond mis­sion, and got per­mis­sion to plug it in. (The bat­tery no longer charges, and it’s time for a new lap­top, or at least a new bat­tery.) I sat down at a table near the out­let, pulled out my lap­top, and dis­cov­ered that I’d left the cord back at the cab­in.

At least I man­aged to get milk and peanut but­ter.

Lat­er in the day I went for a bike ride, and snapped pho­tos of a bush full of red berries (I think they’re prob­a­bly chokecher­ries, but I’m not sure enough that I’m going to taste them) and some of the bison in the bison enclo­sure (see up top).

Bright red berries; possibly chokecherries
I think these might be chokecher­ries, but I’m not sure enough to try and eat them.

In the evening, after sup­per, I did my 1,250 words, then went to bed fair­ly ear­ly. I had a plan, you see: I set my alarm for 2:30 AM, with the intent of get­ting to the aban­doned house (see Sunday’s post) to get a longer set of star trails. I want­ed to get there before moon­set, so that the moon would part­ly light the house, and then stay till after the moon had gone down.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the weath­er didn’t coop­er­ate. Clouds start­ed rolling in to the north (to shoot the house, I’m shoot­ing to the north­east), mean­ing that my star trail plan would be nixed. Also, I mis­cal­cu­lat­ed how much moon I’d have; it had near­ly set by the time I got halfway to the house.

Sigh­ing, long­ing for bed, I turned around and start­ed home. Some­thing made me stop, though, about halfway back, at the top of a val­ley on the road between Minnedosa and Erick­son.

The auro­ra were putting on a bit of a light show. I’d checked Space Weath­er ear­li­er in the day, and found that there was a chance of a mild geo­mag­net­ic storm, so I kind of halfway expect­ed it.

I stopped, and got some pho­tos. I’m hap­py with what I got. At least I didn’t get up at 2:30 AM and dri­ve 45 min­utes round-trip for noth­ing.

Aurora Borealis
A bit of a light show, between Minnedosa and Erick­son

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.

Writing Retreat 2018: Sunday

Clouds at sunset

This week is my writ­ing retreat at Minnedosa. I’ve set myself a goal of 2,500 words a day, split between a morn­ing and an evening writ­ing sprint. I’m also tak­ing advan­tage of the clear(ish) skies to do some astropho­tog­ra­phy.

On Sun­day, I arrived in the ear­ly after­noon. I went for a vis­it with my land­lords (whose cab­in I’m bor­row­ing for the week), then set­tled in at the cab­in. In the evening I did my 1,250 words, then hit the road. There’s an old, aban­doned house that I got a geo­t­agged pho­to of last year, and I want­ed to see if I could find it. I thought it’d be a great loca­tion for some night pho­tos: the Milky Way, per­haps, or some star trails.

(The moon is clos­ing in on full right now, and it tends to wash out the fainter stars, so if I want Milky Way, I have to wait till after moon­set. That’s… dif­fi­cult, since it sets some­where around 3 or 4 AM these days. (More on that in Monday’s post.))

I want­ed to find the old house while it was still light, so I left the cab­in around 9 PM and drove the half-hour north, up a high­way that went from pave­ment to grav­el about ⅓ of my way to my des­ti­na­tion. (There was anoth­er route, pos­si­bly a lit­tle longer, but I knew it’d be paved the whole way. I decid­ed I’d take it when I returned, after dark.)

I found the house, and then, since the sun was just bare­ly set­ting, went for a tour. I drove down to Neep­awa, stop­ping at the side of the road when I saw a par­tic­u­lar­ly spec­tac­u­lar cloud lit by the sun­set (above). From there I drove back to the cab­in, where I watched a cou­ple episodes of Car­nivàle, wait­ing for full dark.

Just around mid­night I set out again. I found the house in the dark, and snapped a few pho­tos. I’m plan­ning to head back for more anoth­er night.

And then I went back to my home for the week, and crawled into bed around 2 AM.

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.

A checkout story

I stopped in at Co-op to get some gro­ceries, and got in the short­est line I could find. The guy in front of me, man, he was a sto­ry.

He had a thin beard, grey eyes, and wore a bas­ket­ball tank-top and a ball cap. His arms were tat­tooed with num­bers and designs: a 12 on his left fore­arm, an ankh on one wrist, the word SATAN’S crawl­ing down the inside of his right fore­arm.

He had a 2-litre bot­tle of store-brand cream soda, vio­lent­ly pink, and four pack­ages of Reese’s Peanut But­ter Cups. He paid his bill—$7.86—with a dou­ble fist­ful of dimes, and got 15¢ change back.

He’s got a sto­ry to tell. Prob­a­bly quite a few of them, real­ly. I just have no idea if I’m tough enough to hear them.

An evening out with the stars

Aurora Borealis

With some of the mon­ey I inher­it­ed from my dad, last year, I bought an 1116mm f/2.8 lens for my cam­era. In plain Eng­lish, it’s a nice fast lens with a nice wide field of view, which means that it’s great for astropho­tog­ra­phy.

Tonight, the stars aligned for me, as it were. There was almost a 50/50 chance of some auro­ra sight­ings, per SpaceWeath­er. The tem­per­a­ture was a balmy -1°C, which was a pleas­ant change from the -25°C and -35°C nights we’ve had for the last cou­ple weeks.

Long sto­ry short, there was a faint haze to the north. Edit­ing with Gimp brings out quite a bit more than the naked eye could see.

As my cam­era clicked away, I leaned back against the car. At one point I thought of Kurt Vonnegut’s quote: If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.