What’s Happening: 03/07/2013

Comet PANSTARRS“In a sea of stars, comets soar like the souls of tall ships with glittering tails in their wakes…” 2013 is shaping up to be the Year of the Comet, and we get our first shot at a naked-eye flyby with Comet PANSTARRS (named for the telescope in Hawaii that found it) which can be seen low in the western sky after sunset in most of North America starting tonight, though you’ll probably need a pair of binoculars to pick it out at first. It’ll be loitering in our neighborhood for about a month, returning in about 110,000 years. Okay, let’s just say “never” and call it even. For more info, check out the EarthSky blog. In August, the potentially-spectacular Comet ISON will debut, and it might even be visible in the daytime sky for a short time. We won’t be passing through either comet’s tail, so if you’re worried about Comet Zombies, rest easy.

UPDATE: Naturally, weather in the Greater KC Metro Area has been 100% obscured, with periods of rain and freezing rain, since I posted this. Perhaps the clouds will dissipate before the comet exits our solar system, but I’m not optimistic.

Call of the HeraldOh, the quotation in bold above is from Brian Rathbone’s Call of the Herald, now available for free Kindle and Nook download via Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. I’ll provide a review once I download and read my copy, but the cover rocks enough awesome to merit a download all by itself. Check out more of Brian’s stuff at http://www.brianrathbone.com

UPDATE: The second book in this trilogy is also free at the moment, so do as I say and did…grab a copy. In another freebie note, fans of contemporary teen fiction can score a free e-copy of fellow Kansan Stephanie Morill’s Me, Just Different, the first book in her Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. Details here.

Not my picture, but you get the idea.
Not my picture, but you get the idea.

Birds of Prey Know They’re Cool: I saw an osprey today on the way to work as I crossed the Kansas River on Route K10—the bird kind, not the tilt-rotor aircraft. I’ve only made a positive ID on one of these little beauties once before, so this was kind of special. The bright-white underside, narrow tail, and distinctive M-shaped soaring posture were clearly visible as it followed the river across the bridge and away to the east. I do a lot of my birdwatching on-the-fly, so to speak, and it’s been a pretty good winter with two Bald Eagle sightings, plus plenty of well-fed Cooper’s Hawks and smaller falcons.

A wing, perhaps angelic.Shouldn’t You Be Writing? As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I’ve got a new installment in the epic tale of John Milton up at Avenir Eclectia, with another soon to follow. Digital Dragon Magazine has also just released its long-awaited anthology, A Year of the Dragon. “Angel Wings”, my short tale of mothers, daughters, and body modification, lurks within.

Fight the Future: I stumbled across something called Ingress the other day, a new Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game from Google’s Niantic Labs that’s currently in limited beta release following a viral marketing campaign that began the middle of last year. Being a frequent user of Google, Google Plus, iGoogle, Google Chrome, Google Android, et al, I was slightly miffed that what might well be the Next Big Thing had somehow flown under my radar despite said viral marketing campaign. The beta opened last November, and though you can freely download the game app from Google Play, you can’t access the game without one of the invitation codes that Google is doling out like Wonka Golden Tickets via the game’s web pages and associated media. If you thought it was hard to get into Google Plus before, you ain’t seen nothin’ like this.

IngressAnyhow, Ingress is something like a cross between geocaching, capture the flag, the X-Files, and Project Ultra, using landmarks all over the world as its map. Niantic Labs has foolishly opened a transdimensional gateway and drawn the attention of whatever lives on the other side to our existence. These beings claim to offer cosmic enlightenment to mankind, but their motives are unclear. Some observers believe they’re trying to infiltrate and possess humanity ala the scenario in Stephenie Meyers’ The Host, only more sneakily. They’re opening interdimensional portals and seeding the planet with invisible Exotic Matter in preparation for the invasion. Meanwhile, a Resistance movement is forming to gain control of the portals and keep the aliens at bay. At least, that’s the story. The whole thing plays out over the smartphone app, where players choose their faction and coordinate attacks and counterattacks, with supporting multimedia backstory and clues provided on the various project websites. It’s a geek paradise with innumerable videos, audio files, leaked chatlogs, and oodles of obscure cryptology.

The underlying purpose of Ingress, besides making Google a bucket of money via means yet unrevealed, seems to be marshaling a worldwide volunteer force to gather the slew of photos and GPS coordinates needed to fill gaps in Google Maps and Google’s Field Trip app. Well, it’s the best theory I’ve heard yet. Perhaps that’s the real conspiracy, but you didn’t hear it from me. I was never here.

And I’m still waiting for my Golden Ticket.

UPDATE: The day after I wrote this, my invitation arrived. Coincidence? I think not! Anyhow, more details once I’ve had a few weeks to get my feet wet. First impressions: 1. Love the backstory and media support. 2. Nifty interface. 3. Sci-fi combat geocaching without the briars and poison oak. 4. Standard MMORPG grinding and leveling. 5. Cooperative element could be stronger, but they’re fighting a subculture with little love for social interaction.


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